Welcome to our realeyz blog …

     |    Friday, der 12. February 2010

We, the FDCL, are film partners at realeyz.tv for two documentary films about Peru, Choropampa- The Price of Gold and Tambogrande – Mangos, Murder, Mining. We’re going to break the realeyz.tv blog guidelines a little by writing a somewhat longer article than usual as our first post. We’re not going to bore but we think it’s appropriate to go into detail about the country that is featured in films, and about the films themselves and the people who made them. —

// Peru, Peru …?

Last year’s Berlinale, where surprisingly the Golden Bear was awarded to the Peruvian-Spainish co-production La Teta Asustada, boosted interest in Peru among people in Germany. In an acceptance speech, lead actress Magaly Solier flashed across the screen speaking in Quechua. That was very nice and the response in Peru was overwhelming. But here at home it was a typical case of ‘that was nice, but now it’s over’.

If you take a look at recent headlines about Peru (of which there aren’t many) in the most popular German language online news portal (spiegel.de) a representative sample (and this is representative!) sounds like this +++ German Dies in Andes Bus Accident +++ Newly Discovered Andes Mouse Loves High Altitude+++ Mummies, Gold, and Cloud Warriors +++ The World’s Dreamiest Road +++ Lung Stolen From Corpse Exhibit +++ Police Chase Suspected Fat Murderer +++ Fat Murderer Case Costs Police General His Job+++ Two Hikers Killed by Inca Trail Landslide +++ Machu Picchu Train Line Closes for Months +++ …

Is that all there is to Peru? Fat murderers (which turned out to be a story fabricated by a police general), bus accidents, exotic animals, endless dream roads, and lung thieves? By no means!! Perhaps it’s asking too much of a daily online news service to present a comprehensive, balanced and detailed picture of such a distant country. On the other hand, nothing will change if news remains an automatic response to such triggers as catastrophes, scandals, exotic and bizarre events, or an interest in tourism. Granted, there is a world of difference between making daily news and producing a documentary film. But the former seem to have no real interest in the non-Andes parts of Peru (60 percent of the land lies in the Amazon region) and show a lack of genuine contact to and interest in the people who live there.

// The Filmmakers

And exactly this interest in the people and their daily lives, and in fostering close contact, is what Stephanie Boyd and Ernesto Cabellos from Guarango do and express in their award winning documentaries. Choropampa – The Price of Gold and Tambogrande – Mangos, Murder, Mining are socially conscious documentaries in the best sense of the word. The closeness the directors share with the people in these films is evident in the film’s imagery, especially when the camera is present during challenging and conflict-ridden situations. They are not only present – they are allowed to be present.

One reason for this is surely because Stephanie and Ernesto are not just filmmakers or lovers of cinema, as they are more like social activists who make films. Furthermore, they not only succeed in getting across a socially critical point of view, they do it in an outstanding cinematic fashion. Their film work goes beyond the documentary in that they implement film as a way to work with people in farming and indigenous communities on the issues we see in the films. The agenda includes the use of media, working with media, and securing human rights that have been internally recognized and chartered. Their commitment finds expression in the continuity of subject matter found in their films. And meanwhile, they are almost finished with their third documentary, The Devil Operation. This film deals with the social conflicts that have sprung up between the local residents and the mining companies. Conflicts that are so characteristic of and have left their mark on natural resource projects in Peru.

//The Poor Rich Land

Why the focus on the conflict-ridden exploitation of natural recourses? Peru is often described – as are other Latin American Countries – as a beggar on a golden throne. The country is rich in natural resources and raw materials yet the people are poor. Peru has enormous reserves of gold, copper, silver and natural gas. It is in the top five worldwide for many metal ores. So the equation is the following: raw materials equal exports equals foreign currency equals public revenue. This simple formula certainly makes sense if applied to the presidential palace and governmental circles in general (and also as regards private financial reward for those holding certain offices). But locally, in the towns and villages and communities and regions where large scale mining or so-called extractive projects are taking place, the repercussions are enormous. (A parallel to this in Germany would be the coal fields in the Lausitz and Middle Germany regions).

Regretful I: The Peruvian state gives higher priority to the needs and desires of the extractive industrial sector than to the interests and rights of the local population, done in a way that could be described as turning a blind eye or even by using brute force (at least until protest stirs).

Regretful II: The capital city Lima doesn’t show much interest in anything beyond its own borders, and generally has no ear for the developmental needs and interests of people living in the Andes or the Amazon ‘hinterlands’ (about 90 percent of Peru’s total land area).

Regretful III: Promises of local economic development are not kept. Begun about 18 years ago under President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), the mining sector was deregulated step by step to make the country attractive to investors and corporations. These came and started new projects, and private profits were made. But to this day, there has been no real impulse to develop local economies in the mining regions. High levels of poverty have remained, especially in rural areas where poverty levels often reach well over 40 percent of the country’s average. Also left behind are environmental damage, lost land, mountains that have been leveled, contaminated water supplies and destruction of social cohesion: quarreling and divided local communities.

Regretful IV: The future prospects of conflicts surrounding the exploitation of natural resources is not rosy. State-industrial interests are moving now toward the Peruvian Amazon region and there is no eye, ear, or above all, will offered by the Peruvian government to see – let alone respect or represent – the interests of the indigenous population. They are looked at much more as a hindrance to development and the government doesn’t shy away from using a monopoly on “state-sanctioned” violence to fight them.

// The Intentions and Motivations for Writing this Blog

It’s not just about taking a look at what’s happening in Choropampa and Tambogrande today, although that’s certainly of interest. Both the towns and the films about them have written history as concerns resistance on a local and regional level. But the effects of this resistance on these towns and on the daily reality of life there has varied considerably. The main purpose of the blog however is to highlight the films, and to widen horizons as concerns Peru and the social conflicts resulting from the exploitation of natural resources and its effect on daily lives of the people living in affected communities. We will also attempt to show to what degree Europe is still party to this exploitation more than 500 years after the conquest of Latin America. We want to provide food for thought about and be activists for a country that, according to various scenarios, will likely be among those to feel the worst effects of global warming. One result of global warming is already evident: the rapid melting of the Andes glaciers. The glaciers represent an important source of water for many regions in Peru which means that a new conflict is in the making or is already present in many locations.

// And finally

So that we can post about everything we promise on a weekly basis, this blog will necessarily be fed from a variety of text and media sources. The FDCL is a film partner at realEYZ – but we are not an exclusive partner for issues surrounding Peru or the system of natural resource exploitation and the social conflicts resulting from it. Here in Germany, there are numerous other groups and individuals who have something to say about these topics. Worth mentioning are the organizations that have joined to form the Kampagne Bergwerk Peru. This blog will also provide other activists, organizations and individual voices a chance to be heard and seen. The result may be a heterogeneity that can and should be understood as a diversity of voices.

// The FDCL Team