- On March 15, 2023
- In Arts
Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra
Cultivating Equality Through Documentary Filmmaking
In commemoration of Women’s History Month, IBA invites you to a special screening of Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra. This FREE EVENT includes a lively discussion with one of the protagonists, as well as a Q&A session with Juanma. Join us for an evening of community empowerment and a celebration of our culture.
Juanma Pagán Teitelbaum grew up in the fertile lands of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. In a home surrounded by nourishing tropical fruit, a question emerged in Juanma’s mind: With so much abundance, why does our country import more than 85% of our food?
For more than a decade, this question became the subject of Juanma’s work as a director. His exploration of Puerto Rico’s food sovereignty led to a creative partnership with producer and activist Mariolga Reyes Cruz. Together, Juanma and Mariolga developed a series of short documentaries featuring the country’s new generation of ecological farmers: Agroecología en Puerto Rico and Cosecha Hoy.
Although their work went on to gain international recognition and SunCoast Emmy nominations, the filmmakers were called to create a feature-length documentary that would portray the farmers’ deeper struggles. This is how Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra came to life.
Funding the Film
As independent documentary filmmakers, Juanma and Mariolga are no strangers to perseverance. Despite their previous success, they needed funding to make the documentary idea a reality. “Just like the farmers,” Juanma said, “there was no way we could produce this kind of work on personal debt. It wasn’t sustainable.”
Inspired by the farmers’ grit, Juanma and Mariolga decided to take a risk for the project they believed in and applied for a loan from the Puerto Rican Film Commission. Because, like local farmers who must compete with imported food, Juanma knew that Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra “would compete with big Hollywood productions that inundate the market.”
Their initial funding was limited. It would require that Juanma and Mariolga shoot the film in 12 months – which was not enough time to document the story of Puerto Rico’s food sovereignty movement. If they wanted to create impact, Juanma and Mariolga knew that this project had to be a multi-year production.
The reality is that “documentary filmmakers need the financial support to make it happen,” Juanma said. With this documentary, he hoped to do the farmers justice and make a bold statement. Thanks to this funding, the filmmakers would now be able to follow the lives of Puerto Rican farmers and document the stories that emerged from their daily lives.
Capturing Stories As They Unfold
Following the lives of three ecological farmers since the first day in their newly-rented farms, Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra takes viewers on an agricultural journey from 2016 to 2018. It sheds light on gender disparity in Puerto Rico’s agricultural system, where women have less access to capital and fighting to grow sustainable food is part of the job description.
It’s against this backdrop of patriarchy and inequality that Hurricane Irma and María hit Puerto Rico. When the country is unable to import food from the United States, scarcity becomes a reality for a third of the Puerto Rican population. But despite the ongoing crisis, farmers continue working together to produce healthy local food for their communities in a time of need.
In a testament to tenacity, the film captures the plight to hold onto the land and defend the people’s right to remain independent. Just as the film represents the determination of Puerto Rico’s young farmers, it also empowers a generation of activists to overcome patriarchy and racism.
Through Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra, Juanma’s goal is to motivate viewers to create a better future for themselves and their loved ones. The documentary has been a commercial success that has screened in 14 theaters for an extended period of 12 weeks.
In its first two months, Serán las Dueñas de la Tierra has been enjoyed by more than 10,000 viewers. Whether you’re a farmer, an immigrant, or an artist this documentary’s goal is to inspire people to “believe in a just and sustainable future against all odds,” the director said.