This impeccably made documentary succeeds at injecting an element of hope into its rather depressing proceedings, but fails to address the balance of argument, skirting around certain issues in the narrative and ultimately feeling one-sided.
With social unrest at its core, the depiction of the struggle of a small Peruvian village against a petroleum company is nothing you won’t have seen before, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. In fact, if you saw Even the Rain (a superb Spanish movie released recently) then you’ve seen a fictional version of Law of the Jungle , with some characters in that film almost identical to the real-life inhabitants of this one.
The story that the filmmakers want to portray is the struggle of the natives against the big, Western, evil corporation, and they do that successfully. However, there are also other aspects of the narrative that feel unexplored. During an apparently peaceful protest, a policeman was shot in the head and killed. Who did this? It seems evident that one, or all, of the protestors must know, but they stay silent, as does the film.
There is also another murder noted – this time a villager. The presumption would be that this was a retaliation killing, and that’s what the film wants you to believe, but why? How did the police know who killed one of their ranks? In the Q&A that followed I queried the director about these points – he told us that the villager who was killed could not have been responsible for the death of the policeman. How did he know this? He was not forthcoming with the details.
This various points may not impact on the core theme of social injustice, but they’re hard to ignore. Regardless of how moral the quest may be, documentaries need to be seen to have explored the entirety of the issue at hand, and when that isn’t the case the audience finds itself questioning every other aspect of the story.
Ultimately, it leaves you with more questions that answers.
Michael Christofferson & Hans La Cour’s environmental/social documentary won The Sheffield Green Award 2012, conquering some particularly stiff competition.