Alonso’s big “fuck you” to the soft-core navel gazing, narcissism, and unspoken laziness of modern cinematic protagonists (yeah, I’m looking at you right now, Pedro Costa), “La Libertad” follows a day in the life of the woodcutter Misael in the middle of a grand work project to clear a rancher’s land. The economic arrangement is direct: Misael makes lumber of the trees and in exchange gains use of the rancher’s truck to deliver the wood to the lumber yard where he gets to pocket the money from the sale.
During the day’s journey, he pauses for lunch, a smoke, and a nap while listening to a latin dance song on the radio (never in cinema has a protagonist exacted so much satisfaction from music). After completing the sale of lumber, he stops by the store in town to purchase an orange Fanta and Marlboro Reds and make a brief payphone call to his family (his daily reward, or act of love, to himself). On his way back to the lumber camp, he stumbles across an armadillo (a grand stroke of luck), which he kills. He celebrates his good fortune by preparing a grand feast of the armadillo. And in the final shot, he’s given his first close-up, relishing his feast, shirtless and muscled and perfectly fit. The campfire providing frontal light and a night lightening storm providing backlight, he startles us by abruptly staring into the camera for the first time and smiling for the first time, almost mocking us and our interpretation of the day’s events, daring us to deny that he’s a hero of action and progress and freedom. Rossellini would have been proud.