Saturday, August 27, 2016

Peruvian-style Capitalism meets major opposition in Heidi Brandenburg & Mathew Orzel's WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE


We've heard, over the years, a lot about Brazil's deforestation of its Amazon region but not so much about what neighboring Peru has done. We're brought up to date with with a jolt and much vigor by the new documentary, WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE that takes us back a few years and then forward as two major political leaders in Peru -- the country's then-President, Alan Garcia, and Alberto Pizango, President of AIDESEP, the country's major organization devoted to indigenous rights -- square off against each other and the policies that each represents.

As very well directed and photographed (sometimes in the midst of violent unrest) by Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel (shown above, respectively right and left), and edited by Carla Gutierrez to maximize our understanding of what is going on from various angles and viewpoints, the documentary brings us up-close-and-personal to power wielded South American style by two men absolutely intent on seeing that their ends come to fruition.

While Progressives and environmentalists will of course side with Señor Pizango (above, center) and American Republicans and other promoters of Capitalism will favor Garcia (below), the filmmakers do an excellent job of offering up both men's viewpoints honestly (Garcia refused to cooperate or give interviews to the the documentarians), but it is clear from what we see that the Peruvian government, under Garcia and his minions, enacted laws that were actually illegal. Under International Convention C169, to which Peru was a signatory, it is mandatory that before the government passes a law that affects the rights of it native people, those people must first be consulted. This was never done, and since these laws have given huge corporations the power to despoil the Amazon and impact badly the heath of the natives, Pizango goes full-out against Garcia to stop this.

How all this is done -- via speeches, actions, and the use of the media to (mostly) bolster the government's case -- escalates into the kind of implacable force that leads finally to violence and death. The film, evolving rather like a thriller, proves intelligent and engulfing, showing us concisely and irrefutably how actions have consequences, many of them unintended -- perhaps on both sides, though the use of what appears to have been unnecessary gunfire by the government forces places a stronger burden of guilt upon Garcia.

The documentary show us once again, but dramatically and with startling immediacy, how the one percent of America -- in the South just as in the North -- exercises its control with an iron hand, consequences be damned. It also shows how, in fighting this control, the limits of behavior can be stretched past the breaking point.

Many scenes resonate, but one in particular, in which a cold and entitled TV talk show host "interviews" Pizango and tells hims that she should not have to be without electricity and lights because of his protests. "What about our rights?" he counters, and she cuts him off, ending the interview.

We hear several times from a scurrilous Minister of the Interior, as well as from various indigenous people, and the most personal and saddest part of the film deals with a father whose son was one of the policeman who were killed during the violence with protesters, when several of the protesters were also killed. The man's son has never been found, and the father spends his days and months searching for any information. What he finds at last is deeply moving and unsettling in ways expected and not.

The two worlds here -- wealthy and poor, the government and the people, the urban and the indigenous -- do indeed collide, and this will happen more often now that, thanks to activists, whistle-blowers and the use of social media, we can more quickly see and understand what is going on in our world and why. Once you've viewed this strong and riveting movie, I suspect that it will come to mind first from now on, whenever you hear of or think about Peru.

From First Run Features and running 103 minutes, When Two Worlds Collide opened in New York last week at Film Forum, where it is continuing its run through this coming Tuesday. It will open in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Monica Film Center on Friday, September 16, as well as in another ten cities and theaters. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates.

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