Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:36 pm 
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Ethnographic documentary on a Peruvian mountain goldmine region

By a Portuguese filmmaker, this ethnographic documentary seeks to present the dangerous, exploited lives of Peruvian Andes gold miners. They chew coca to struggle on and work for weeks without pay under the cachorreo lottery system, betting on their survival and eventual payoff. Hallucinatory filmmaking featuring a long shot of miners endlessly trekking up and down the mountains as there is a background of radio reports and stories of the miners' lives, some presented as interviews.

This is a very long slog indeed and represents a pretty lazy effort visually, if not aurally: planting the camera for an hour on one spot and splicing together recorded material as background shows minimal effort, while requiring exceptional patience from the viewer. While this shot may dramatize the monotony and difficulty of the miners' working lives, we get the point after ten or fifteen minutes, and the continuation for fifty simply suggests the filmmakers' failed as video-journalists, if they were unable to gain access to further aspects of the mining scene. As Young suggests, Lamas has chosen to waste dp xxLuis Armando Arteaga's talents for half the film probably betting on festival juries' proven tendency to be impressed by material that's grueling and tedious. The Inferno of Peruvian goldmines is a topic hat has been richly chronicled in the photographs of Sebastião Salgado. Looking at them is painfully enlightening, but not punishing.

The second half is more conventional, consisting as Neil Young describes it in a Hollywood Reporter review as "an informative and engagingly varied panorama of life in and around 'La Rinconada' (the name of the mine), "culminating in a noisy and colorful religious celebration that finally brings the whole community together in front of Arteaga's lens. Having shot Berlinale 2015 prize-winner Ixcanul Volcano in the damply fecund wilds of Guatemala, the cinematographer now brings his astute eye to a very different mountainous region of Latin America, where blocky habitations cling to hillsides like ice-grey outcrops of nature." Too late, I had lost interest in this film. It is inconsistent, and not up to the sometimes numbing, but rigorous and rich efforts of the Sensory Ethnography Lab based at Harvard, whose efforts I've reported on elsewhere.

Eldorado XXI, 125 mins., debuted at the Forum section of the Berlinale. Not listed on IMDB. Screened for this review at the 2016 New York FSLC/MoMA New Directors/New Films series.

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