Cry of The Andes

A FIGHT FOR WATER, THE THIRST FOR GOLD.

The Atacama Region in the north of Chile is one of the driest places on earth. In this arid landscape, the Huasco River runs clean from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean, sustaining life in the last agricultural valley in the north of Chile. All river valleys to the north have run dry or been polluted by mining, the primary industry in this part of the world.

For 500 years and more, the indigenous Diaguita people along with descendants of the Spanish conquistadores have lived off the fertile sliver of green that lines the banks of the Huasco River as it snakes its way down this mineral rich, water poor landscape. Here, grapes, avocadoes and mangoes are the life blood of picturesque farms and villages that for generations have relied on the Huasco River’s flow. But that way of life is about to change – Pascua Lama, projected to be the largest undeveloped gold and silver deposit in the world is perched high above the Huasco Valley and directly below three glaciers that are source waters for the Huasco River and the Valley’s 70,000 inhabitants.

In the feature length documentary “Cry of the Andes” filmmakers Carmen Henriquez and Denis Paquette take you to the heart of Chile’s Huasco Valley for an international fight over water versus gold, between social and corporate values. Since the 70’s, Canada’s Barrick Gold Corporation, the largest gold mining company in the world, has been working to green light Pascua Lama, their largest and most ambitious project to date. But fierce public opposition in the Huasco Valley and beyond has stalled environmental approval and a full start to the mine. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, two unlikely men along with the Catholic Church are leading the fight against Barrick and the Chilean Government – a fight culminating in one election that ultimately determines the true price of gold. 

Luis Faura is a farmer, activist, and lifelong resident of the Huasco Valley – an elected town councillor and an outspoken critic not just of Pascua Lama but “any intervention in the Andes.” Through Councillor Faura, the filmmakers gain unique access to closed door meetings where the Provincial Governor hosts Barrick management for “community consultation”. We learn how “controlling the human factor” is the key to silencing public dissent, how money and favours buy loyalty and votes. Despite efforts to gain favour with the Diaguita community, Chief Sergio Campusano can’t be bought. Driven by the will of his people, he travels to Canada to demand from Barrick the only thing his community wants: “Leave us alone”. And God is on their side. With the Catholic Church opposed to Pascua Lama, priests and nuns throughout South America descend on the Huasco Valley to wage a holy war.

From its opening on the streets of Toronto, “Cry of the Andes” takes you south to Chile’s Huasco Valley for a character driven story about greed and social justice – a cautionary tale about the environment that resonates in multiple industries around the world. In this modern day gold rush, we see how big business, money and power are the world order, where corporations can influence governments, manipulate communities, and disregard human rights. As this wave of globalization crashes down on the Huasco Valley we come to realize that the legacy of Pascua Lama won’t be measured by what is gained – but what is lost.

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