Cinematic observational film about an environmentally protected salt flat exploited as a mine while the last native inhabitants watch from their run-down towns how the wealth is extracted from their ancestral lands.
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The Surire Salt Flat is placed at an altitude of 4300 m in the Chilean High Plateau and one of the very last places in the world, keeping the treasure of untouched nature with all its beauty, but also holds an allurement: a huge amount of borax, promising the mining industry profits in unknown levels. SURIRE, directed by two extraordinary filmmakers, tells us in an outstanding visual way metaphorically the story of our planet - about the very important subject of disappearance of traditional indigenous culture, untouched nature, environment, clash of the new and old.
I recently saw "Surire" projected at the Public Library in Arica. I've been up in the Altiplano many times and haven't been in Surire, but in other nearby places (such as Chungará), for the first time in 1983, and several times since.
From a purely technical and visual point of view, this film is a great accomplishment and from many ways exceeded my expectations.
But there are also many questions that are unanswered.
It's true that the High Andes (specially in the interior of Arica) are becoming depopulated. That few people live, and these are mostly old persons. Also that life is very, very hard at around 4000 meters above sea level.
It's true that Quiborax is extracting salt from the salt flats and this surely impacts flora, fauna and the people that live there. How much? No idea...
It's true that these places also provide the opportunity for a better livelihood for the original inhabitants with proper training and resources. The Chilean Government has provided basic services (witness the PV panels visible in several houses and basic sanitary services).
It's true that much, much more needs to be done.
The filmmakers took an approach as "witnesses". However there's no such thing as an impartial witness. I can't buy the idea of the Bolivian nephew for the senior couple (that goes down to Arica) comes simply walking down from Bolivia. This is common in places near the Bolivian border, but Surire is at least 50 km from Bolivia.
So after the film, I had the impression that it was a project that needs to be rethought: probably 20 to 30 minutes less running time would benefit the film; and I sorely miss more context and *some* clear position.
How did those tourist riding bikes get there in the last few minutes? From Arica? Not likely. Did they have local support?
To help save this very complex and rich culture, the youngest members must be empowered and properly educated (most of them have now at least High School education, but since it's not a *proper* education, they usually end up living in Arica, working for the Mining companies or finding "better" opportunities down south).
So, a beautiful film, an impressive effort. But I can't help the mixed feelings...
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