What is the price of wealth?
Land in Revolt: Impure Gold is directed by filmmaker and activist Fernando Solanas. Travelling through the vast valleys of Argentina, he encounters environmentalists, professors, farmers, politicians, protesters and engineers as he searches for answers in a country fraught with exploitation. The film draws a web of corruption connecting the major mining corporations with some of the most powerful politicians in Argentina, including its current and former presidents.
The film begins by charting a history of exploitation in South America, going as far back as 1650. For instance, over a period of 400 years Bolivia is said to have been “looted” of its rich minerals by Spanish conquerors.
Argentina holds the sixth largest mineral reserve in the world, assessed at over $200 billion US. Thus, large-scale mining operations arrived during the 1990s, leading to increased exploration and a prospective boom. However, as Solanas demonstrates throughout the film, the social and environmental impact of these mining projects have become severe and destructive. Farming families living near these sites witness their animals—essentially their livelihood—dying of contamination while their houses and farms are bulldozed to create more exploration space. In addition, heavy amounts of water are used for mining. This leaves little for the surrounding communities, who often live without electricity. It comes as no surprise that the social exploitation of the mining industry in Argentina has led to widespread poverty, unemployment and malnutrition.
According to the film, the billions of dollars in profits generated from mining rarely comes back to Argentina, as once promised by the government. In fact, the mining corporations in Argentina are tax-exempt from all of their investments. Moreover, village workers are rarely hired as a result of their lack of professional experience. As one environmentalist notes, “they’ll rob us until there’s nothing left.”
However, this film suffers as a result of its uneven pacing. During the scenes at Minera Alumbrera, one of the largest mining sites in Argentina, the director does little to help alleviate the dullness. Lacking both music and quick edits for long stretches at a time, Solanos overestimates the patience and sympathies of a non-Spanish speaking and non-Argentinian audience. However, as an experienced filmmaker, he manages to showcase some wonderful images of his native land, especially the red rocky mountainous regions in the Argentinian valley.
During the final act, we find citizens fed up of their dire situations and conducting major protests against the many injustices allegedly committed by the mining companies in conjecture with the Argentinian government. Despite the violent and shady methods used by the larger powers-that-be to threaten and discourage the protesters, a rising sense of unity among both villagers and city-dwellers is apparent by the end of the film.
Land in Revolt: Impure Gold screens Wednesday April 3 at 7 p.m. in Room H-110, 1455 de Maisonneuve West. For more information, visit www.cinemapolitica.org/concordia.