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Tambogrande: Mangos, Murder, Mining

by Ernesto Cabellos & Stephanie Boyd
First Run / Icarus Films, Brooklyn, NY, 2006/2007
DVD, 85 mins., col., b/w
Sales, $440; rental, $125
Distributor’s website: http://www.frif.com.

Reviewed by José-Carlos Mariátegui
Alta Tecnología Andina (Lima, Peru) and London School of Economics (London, UK)


The world of documentaries is always an endeavor, specially when they are connected with social circumstances in the intent of summing up a situation in a particular context. "Tambogrande: Mangos, Murder, Mining" is a journalistic documentary-analysis that tells the story of the town of Tambogrande in the north of Peru and the struggle of its people against the exploitation of mineral resources by foreign investors. I must say that I have seen some documentaries similar to this one in the sense that are quite critical yet at the same time they develop a journalistic story. In this case there are very innovative elements, particularly in the initial scenes, like a 2D collage of photos that tried to create a historic chronology of the city an its intense relationship with agriculture rather than mining. Also it was impressive some of the digital images that tried to explain how the city was going to be dismantled due to the extraction by the Manhattan mining company. However, those initial visual innovative features of this documentary are lost making the last 30 minutes a bit repetitive in order to self-reinforce the opinion of the people of the town. There are ways of making this dialog much richer, like by having also a good and intelligent perspective of third parties around the situation. Tambogrande was an example of democratic participation as it led the first local elections to decide whether the mining company would be able to exploit its land; and this is more or less how the documentary ends.

However, we can see that unfortunately there is just only one perspective of the situation, and there is not an analysis towards other deeper situations about poverty and misery in those small towns. The vision of Tambogrande, seen as an agricultural town, becomes idealized, particularly if we compare it with what is happening today as many of their citizens are dedicated to craft-mining, a poorly technified and highly pollutant type of mining.

Finally, in general, it must be said that this documentary would have been more powerful if there was a more convincing argument. The somewhat experimental initial sequences mixed with the story of Tambogrande, becomes more a journalist pursuit than a critical documentary. It is however a pity that these types of documentaries, which are few and good exemplars of independent productions, are not included under CC license to be included online and therefore they have to struggle against oblivion.



Updated 1st October 2007

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