A look at some of the moving films to show at Wild & Scenic
Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-week series of Prospector and Spotlight reviews leading up to the 18th Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and Grass Valley, Jan. 16-20.
The Condor & the Eagle
What do Alberta, Canada, Oklahoma and Texas, and Ecuador have in common? Stretching north to south through the Americas, the goopy, sticky, dirty, petroleum-industry serpent slithers. Tar sands in Canada show that oil extraction is getting worse. Pipelines through Oklahoma and Texas remind us of the distances covered where explosions and spills occur. The Manchester section of Houston — its landscape dense with oil infrastructure, pollution and danger — is where poor people live.
That’s another thing these far flung places have in common. Poor people, especially people of color, and most emblematically red people, who live in these places. However, as one Native American says in the film “The Condor & the Eagle”: “If you drink water and breathe air, it’s about you; it’s not an Indian problem.” As the film shows though, it’s all too frequent that indigenous people lead fights against malignant corporations.
The title, “The Eagle & the Condor” refers to a time “When the eagle of the north and the condor of the south fly together, indigenous peoples will unite the human family.” A leader in Ecuador uses the word “minga” which means working together.
Corporations refer to “environmental stressors”; a protester refers to such as killers. Protesters work very long and very hard to garner respect and protection and more than payment – reparations. Protests manifest results. Corporations have money, but the people have the truth. Yes, “The Condor & the Eagle” is depressing, but it is saturated with hope and activism and minga.
Here’s the dilemma presented in the film, “Rock-Paper-Fish.” What does a local economy do: continue to champion its salmon-based economy (90% of what’s happening) or develop its mining potential?
Outside Haines, Alaska, the Constantine Metal Resources company has dibs on developing the mountains above the Chilkat River. The Chilkat feeds the Bay. Salmon thrive in these waters. Bears fish for salmon, as do whales, as do eagles … as do people.
The spirit of these waters runs through the people’s veins … unless maybe people see jobs booming from a newly minted mining infrastructure.
Often, the wisdom of indigenous people inserts itself into such a dilemma. “We value our subsistence lifestyle … more than we do money.” “Subsistence.” It calls to mind poverty and struggle, managing to get by. Maybe it’s the fundamentals of living, the sustaining ethic of living.
A native person weaves, focusing time, patience, and loving energy. That focus makes it into the fabric. A person can feel it when they put it on. A fisherman can feel the work ethic and generations of fishing.
A mining boom may last 15 years and distribute its riches unevenly and not even locally. Meanwhile does anyone think mining slough won’t kill the salmon? Does any local not remember a nearby 2014 holding-pond disaster where no one was held accountable and lots of layoffs resulted?
What resonates is that being for or against mining tears the community apart. There’s a reason the Chilkat River reached a top-ten endangered-rivers list.
Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at http://www.startlets.com.
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