Cry of the Andes

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Cry of the Andes

Dir. Carmen Henríquez, Denis Paquette (2010, Canada, 90 mins.)

Cry of the Andes begins by making a fairly serious promise. The opening scene, outside a shareholder meeting at Barrick Gold’s headquarters in Toronto, features a handful of activists doing the sorts of things that annoy reasonable people to no end: pontificating on the ‘revolution’, shouting poorly-articulated rationalizations at bored media, and invoking Hitler ad nauseum. A Barrick investor suggests that the absurdity of the protesters is preventing any meaningful dialogue on the issue of sustainability and gold mining, and tells the camera that the Barrick management are “suckers for logic, and if they’re presented with logic, they’ll change. If they’re presented with hyperbole, they’re just going to roll their eyes and be polite.” By ending the opening scene of Cry of the Andes with this statement, directors Carmen Henríquez and Denis Paquette are indicating their commitment to logic over the shallow hyperbole that tends to dominate environmental debates – a commendable goal indeed.

For the most part, Henríquez and Paquette stick to their guns and avoid the pitfalls of hyperbolic documentaries. They do not sensationalize, they try not to editorialize, and they make an honest attempt to portray contrasting viewpoints  (obviously, Barrick Gold declined to make an appearance, but pro-mining politicians in Chile). They do not treat their indigenous subjects with kid gloves. The product is rigorous and informative.

However, a by-product of such discipline is that the size of this documentary’s audience will shrink – a reasoned argument on the subject of environmental sustainability, corporate responsibility, and indigenous rights tends to have that effect on people. The filmmaker’s methodical approach will not likely appeal to people who expect documentaries to be dramatic and embellished. This being said, this approach makes the documentary more worthwhile for the audience that remains – an issue discussed is better than an argument shouted.

This film should resonate with the people of Toronto, where Peter Munk (Barrick Gold chairman and founder) is ubiquitous. His name appears on hospitals (the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital) and on academic institutions (the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto). We know who Peter Munk is when he is in Toronto; these filmmakers have something to say about who Peter Munk is when he is in Chile.

–   Dave Robson

(Cry of the Andes will premier at the ROM as part of the Planet in Focus Film Festival, October 16, 2010 at 9:30 p.m.)

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