The Intag valley of Ecuador is a lush and fertile paradise inhabited by strong-willed and resourceful family farmers. Three generations of families have carved out a hard but good life in this remote frontier. While they don't earn much cash for their work, they own rich land, which is the greatest security for their children and for future generations. Under Rich Earth is a feature length documentary that follows family farmers in the Intag valley who resist what they consider to be the invasion of their land by foreign prospectors. Victor, Rosario, Robinson, Marcia and Carlos are among hundreds of people who join together to stop outsiders from transforming their beloved valley into what a Canadian mining company says will inevitably become a 'world class' copper mine. Facing the prospect of losing their precious land and forests, the farmers are ready to give up their lives. But is their conviction matched by the tenacity of those who want to undermine them? Written by
Disclaimer: I was a 'script consultant' on this documentary, which graphically chronicles Canadian mining companies' use of paramilitary squads to intimidate anti-mining locals in rural Ecuador. So my take on this one is somewhat unique: I'm reacting to the incredible amount of impact and elegance that the film has gained between the last rough cut I saw and this week's Cinematheque screening. But I haven't heard anyone disagree with me yet: I can't think of a single advocacy doc that's better than this. Well okay, Kanehsatake, or High School; but it's seriously close to that league. The thing is, in spite of its zero-budget camcorder aesthetic, it's totally cinematic. Sprawlingly gorgeous in setting and disarmingly intimate in characterization, it mines its situations for all the empathetic emotional response they can carry - lots. Blessedly without narration, the story is told through interviews, but they are so diverse and articulate, and so well-integrated into the visual-narrative flow, that things never get static or simplistic. The dramatic peaks around which the film unwinds are terse, satisfyingly whole, and surprising. And the final shot may be corny, but it's also perfect.
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