André Novais Oliveira’s Temporada (Long Way Home) is the story of a woman building her life anew. Juliana (a beguiling Grace Passô) moves to the sprawling city of Contagem to take a job with a public health program. The spare script Oliveira has crafted focuses on the small moments that add up to Juliana coming to terms with the near-dissolution of her marriage and the chance for reinvention that the move offers her. But even as Temporada’s languid stills put the personal story of this Afro-Brazilian woman front and center, the film zeros in on an increasingly urgent matter: the programs that are combating the spread of dengue fever in urban centers like Contagem in the Southeastern region of the South American country.

Dengue fever remains one of the most important viruses around the world. There’s an estimate of over 300 million cases of dengue worldwide each year. In Brazil alone, dengue epidemics have been recurring since the early 1980s. Even regions that once had zero outbreaks are now seeing mosquitoes that are known to carry the virus multiplying at an alarming rate. As there is no vaccine available against dengue, and no specific medications to treat a dengue infection, the main way to curb the infection rate is by scaling up preventive measures. This is precisely what Juliana and her co-workers do. They spend their days visiting households and inspecting them to identify places where the dengue mosquito is most likely to lay its eggs. They search for standing water, urging homemakers to clean their yards and make sure no receptacles are left out where they can collect rainwater. Often, they’re welcomed into those homes, but there are times when others are screamed at for disturbing their slumber.

It’s a kind of thankless job and it doesn’t pay very well, as Juliana’s co-workers acknowledge over and over. But it’s crucial, especially as the very urban sprawl that has made cities like Contagem grow and industrialize so quickly, has inadvertently also led to the spread of dengue. Oliveira, who once worked for a dengue prevention agency, doesn’t dwell or hit you over the head with all of this. He lets his characters and story amble along, showing us instead how Juliana’s trudging work connects to larger social and ecological concerns. Contagem, after all, underwent a dengue epidemic in 2013 with what was then the highest number of notified cases that has been ever recorded (23,436) and three deaths. If nothing else, Temporada shows us what viral epidemic prevention programs look like on the ground. There’s no glamour, just selfless, necessary – if at times soul-crushing – work.

Temporada screened as part of New Directors/New Films.