directed by Tiago Hespanha
Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival, runs April 25-May 5, 2019 at Toronto's Bloor Cinema. Visit the fest's official site for more details.
by Bill Chambers Despite its occasional stop/start rhythm, Campo is a consistently hypnotic audiovisual essay that ventures onto the Herzogian turf of Alcochete, Portugal's Field Firing Range, called "Campo" for short after the Portuguese word for "field." At 7,539 hectares (i.e., around 47 miles), it's Europe's largest military base--so large that there's room for livestock, including a herd of sheep, to graze on its grass, mostly undisturbed. A series of vignettes alternates drills and wildlife, though these juxtapositions aren't quite that uniform, and oftentimes humans are present in the animal sequences, where they're cooperative and not a blight. (A beekeeper closely monitors a hive to make sure his bees aren't losing their radar like they have been all over the world.) Some scenes smudge the lines of fiction as indicated by this being a training facility, such as when medics labour to stop the bleeding of an allegedly wounded trainee who says, coughing up blood (for effect?), "When my father hears about this, he'll shoot himself." One camera angle, so peculiar it must be intentional, reduces a jeep and the soldiers inside it to action figures straight out of Marwencol.