It’s a long held belief of mine, as a very minor eco-warrior, that we, as humans, have absolutely no clue what we are doing to the very planet that we live on and is sustaining our very lives. After watching the documentary When Two Worlds Collide, I’m even more fearful that we don’t.

Joint directors Heidi Brandenburg (Don Silva, Sonnemann) and Mathew Orzel co-founded Yachaywasi Films, along with along with Producer Taira Akbar, to explore social and environmental issues and challenge audiences to rethink preconceptions. It’s fair to say they have done that with their first feature-length film When Two World Collide.

“My father always told me that the Earth was borrowed. It’s not given to you to do what you please with. When you borrow something you must care for it, even more than its owner. We must hand it to future generations in even better condition.” – Alberto Pizango

The documentary follows the events that unfolded around the mid to late 2000’s in Peru when President Alan Garcia announced that the country, including the Amazon forest, was available for investment to the wider world, in particular American oil companies. These large organisations were encouraged to come to Peru, setup new companies and drill for oil and take all the trees they desired.

What Garcia’s government didn’t do, and should have done, was consult with the local indigenous tribes-people whose land they were effectively trying to sell. This, as you can imagine, caused outrage amongst the locals who began to protest and ask the government to repeal the law that basically meant private companies could purchase sections of the Amazon rain forest…

As time goes on, the government doesn’t back down and things begin to escalate leading to violence in which many, on both sides, are killed and injured. The government blames the indigenous people for attacking the police, the police say they were ambushed, the government tries to get away with it.

One of the police officers is taken hostage and his father’s journey, searching for his lost son, forms a secondary story which is heart-wrenching. He eventually finds out that he will never see his son again and what happened to him is simply awful.

At the heart of the indigenous people is Alberto Pizango. A local man who is deemed the leader and the person who speaks to the government on behalf of all the tribes. It’s within this that Brandenburg and Orzel have hit on a winner. The government, in blaming the tribes for attacking the police, put the blame squarely at Pizango’s door. He, on the other hand, insists he didn’t give them any orders to blockade roads or attack police.

The directors switch back and forth between sides and leave it to you to make your own mind up about his guilt. As the story ends we’re told the trial is still ongoing, Pizango having fled to Nicaragua and then come back to Peru a year later.

The camerawork, that done by Brandenburg and Orzel, is stunning. The shots of the Amazon are simply breath taking and show you why this land must be preserved. There is then a visual juxtaposition with the after effects of them mining for oil and logging. With what trees there are coated in the black gold four feet high. Local people falling ill due to poisons in the water.

What the film shows is a heartless government (and plenty of companies) interested only in money, hell bent on plundering the Earth for all she has regardless of the consequences. But don’t think for a second this is some eco-warrior movie and only tree-huggers will be interested. The story of the father looking for his son, the story of Pizango and did he give the orders or not, means When Two Worlds Collide is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in some time.

 

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