Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are Ecuador and Rafael Correa the new models for a progressive South America? Jacques Sarasin's new doc says yes.

Not what you would call a "balanced" documentary (but a most interesting one nonetheless), Jacques Sarasin's ECUADOR: RAINFOREST VS. GLOBALIZATION takes us to the country that has perhaps garnered the least news (considering what it is attempting) in our mainstream media of any in South America. Is this because of its "socialist" leanings? (And because these leanings might just work?) Maybe. But as its President Rafael Correa (elected in 2006, serving since 2007) reminds us several times during this 72-minute movie, this is a "new" socialism -- one in which the state does not own all the means of production but must own or control some strategic assets -- such as the country's natural resources.

Paris-based director Sarasin, shown at right, gives us a lot of Correa in his new documentary, and god knows the guy is photogenic -- maybe the best-looking President of any in the current world. He seems bright, too. An economist by trade and, it appears, an activist by nature, when Correa first came to power, he immediately declared that Ecuador's national dept was illegitimate and pledged to fight creditors in international courts. He (and others) in this pro-active and intelligent doc take the time to explain the reasons for the above, as well as why they feel this new socialism will work.

Among those rooting for the new Ecuador are Alberto Acosta (below), political economist and former Minister of Energy and Mines; Fernando Vega, a priest who went into politics for a time but is now back to "priesting," with an emphasis on emigration problems and Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador's current Minister for Policy Coordination and former Minister of Finance.

On the negative side, we hear (but barely) from Cesar Robalino Gonzago, President of the Association of Private Bankers in Ecuador, who not surprisingly believes Correa's program won't work. Because the President's policies appear to be both humane and sensible, maybe even workable, toward the kind of participa-tory democracy the country has never experienced, many progres-sives around the world are rooting for this Prez and his people.

Past documentaries, such as Joe Berlinger's Crude, have tackled the lawsuit against Chevron Oil, but Sarasin's, with Correa's blessing, one assumes, seems content not to finger-point but rather to address the positive possibilities.

The movie shows us this, as it travels from talking heads, lead by Correa, to the beauty of the rainforest (above) to the sheen of an urban metropolis and back again. Ecuador -- the country and the movie -- are both quite beautiful, offering us the brightly colored native clothing, fertile hills with their llamas, and an administration bent on transforming the country.

To this end, Correa's Yasuni Initiative looks promising: a proposal to refrain from exploiting the oil reserves of the ITT oil field -- in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves in order to preserve the biodiversity of the region, avoid CO2 emissions and protect the rainforest's indigenous peoples. Time will tell whether or not this comes to pass and how well it works. Meanwhile, we have Sarasin's new doc to keep us apprised of what is (or at least was until recently) going on.

Making its DVD debut this Tuesday, November 29, via Cinema Libre Studio, Ecuador: Rainforest vs. Globalization will be available for sale or for rental via various digital platforms (once I learn which platforms, I'll post them here).

Apologies: Only the photo of Alberto Acosta 
(around the middle of the post) is from the film itself. 
The rest are taken, catch-as-catch-can, 
from the internet. 

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