Nelida, a young Andean woman, is going to law school in the city in an attempt to gain formal training to battle a corporation threatening her community. The corporation in question is a mining company determined to extract gold deposits valued in the millions sitting beneath her village. Determined not to give up, Nelida’s actions have had a negative impact on her family. Her father openly references her activist ways as the reason he was dismissed from his job at the local mine.
Director Ernesto Cabellos Damián uses Daughter of the Lake to shine a light on the plight of rural Peruvians and Bolivians as they struggle against the might of government backed corporations. He shows that these companies are damaging communities by taking away their access to water. The documentary looks at two communities, the Andean rural lands in Peru and those in Totora, Oruro Bolivia, at different stages of deterioration. In some cases the communities have been reduced to only one water source amongst a sea of sand, dirt and dust.
The film excels in contrasting the lush nature of the Andean land, and its centrepiece Blue Lake, with the dirt and lifeless nature of the mining company across the way. Cabellos Damián even juxtaposes the rural landscape with the jarring sounds and the overwhelming amount of concrete found in the city of Lima, where Nelida goes to school. One particularly intriguing interlude involves a group of women who work in a mine in Oruro, Bolivia. The camera follows the women into the mine with the lights of their helmets being the main source of illumination. This sequence gives a real sense of the tight working conditions they must endure on a daily basis.
Wanting to provide for their families, the women discuss how hard they had to fight to even get jobs at the mine. They were constantly told by the men that women in the mine would upset the spirits and render the mine barren. Cabellos Damián uses the women’s tale to transition into an Amsterdam jewellery store to add weight to the plight of these ravished communities. Introducing the audience to a jewellery designer, who has made a conscious effort to use source materials that are produced as humanely as possible, Cabellos Damián shows that even she can’t justify the grueling labour that the locals endure.
Daughter of the Lake is an insightful study of the ongoing struggle between corporations and natural environments. The film’s opening words “Water = Blood; Earth = Life and Lake=Mother,” resonates with the audience through the entire film. Ernesto Cabellos Damián shows that the rural residents are watchful, prepared and ready to protect their land and its resources at all costs. The dilemma is how to stop a corporation who only cares about short term financial gains, and neglects to acknowledge the long term societal impacts?
Thursday, April 30, 6:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, May 2, 4:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.