Cleveland usually isn’t the first city to come to mind for a gritty urban drama, but if grit is what you’re looking for, Ohio’s largest metropolitan area has plenty to offer. And no one knows that better than Cleveland-native Steven Caple Jr., who has chosen his struggling hometown as the setting for his debut feature film The Land.
The Land follows a multicultural group of black, Latino, and white high school friends who spend their days skating, playing hookie and engaging in casual car theft. When the crew stumbles upon a stockpile of molly in the trunk of a car, they set about selling off their bounty and living the good life; but their ill-gotten goods soon catch up to them when a local queenpin figures out who jacked her stash.
This all plays out in a dimly lit, hand-held style that has become the standard for contemporary urban dramas. What sets The Land apart, however, is its authenticity and unmistakable feel for place. Buoyed by a star-studded soundtrack and powerful performances from the young cast including Colombian-American actor Moises Arias and Dominican-born Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Caple moves his film effortlessly through Cleveland’s back alleys, storefronts, and abandoned buildings like only a true native could.
With executive producing credits from the likes of Nas, Machine Gun Kelly, and Erykah Badu (some of whom make guest appearances in the film), The Land has some serious weight behind it. It’s a lot of backing for a director who has made his name mostly in short films and web series, but we can only assume it’s a testament to the power of Caple’s vision.