Skip to main content

The Devil Operation - a Hot Docs Review

The Devil Operation
Written & Directed by Stephanie Boyd
Cinematographer(s) : Ernesto Cabellos Damian

Screenings as part of the Hot Docs Festival - check for times here

There's no doubt that Oshawa filmmaker Stephanie Boyd has her heart in the right place with The Devil Operation. In it, she traces a conflict between the mostly indigenous and impoverished farmers in the Andean regions of Peru and the gold mining companies - and their goons - who look at the land only as the storehouse of their future wealth.

The early parts of the film focus on one Father Marco Arana, a simple parish priest in one of the country's poorest regions. He stands up for the people as they organize against the gold mining conglomerate that's attempting to explore and then mine the mountain that looms above them. Father Marco, named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time Magazine in 2009, tries to keep his parishioners safe by keeping order and trying to face the onslaught of commercial interests with civil disobedience but not violence. At stake is the land and the life giving water that flows down from the top, water that will be contaminated by the machinations of the conglomerate at the Yanacocha Mine.

The people organize a blockade of the only road leading uphill, one that's so successful in bringing the mining exploration to a halt that eventually, the government caves in and rescinds the company's mining permit. A victory - but not so fast. All of a sudden strangers are seen in town, taking pictures and following Father Arana and his activist group, called the Grufides. Paranoia runs high, and justifiably so. A nearby veterinarian, also instrumental in organizing the local farm people, is shot at point blank range in front of witnesses. Who are the perpetrators, and who sent them to terrorize and intimidate?

It's a compelling story, and the footage that focuses on the group, its struggles and its testimonials is the strongest. The problem with the film itself is none other than Stephanie Boyd, whose mannered voiceover occasionally interjects to explain how evil the company is, just in case we didn't get the point. The narration shouldn't stand out over the evidence of the film.

The film also loses focus about two thirds of the way through. To ostensibly illustrate the level of fear and apprehension of the activists, it goes into a long section that has nothing to do with Father Arana. It's another good story with riveting evidence of corporate abuses, but here it's tacked onto another narrative, it keeps making the same point over and over. The promo material describes it as a "real life political thriller", but we're simply told about the various bits of evidence that link together - some of them flimsiliy - in a tone that has already set the conflict in stark black and white. Investigative journalism it certainly is not.

It's not that I didn't believe the story or doubt what was being presented, but it doesn't build a coherent case in and of itself. The title of the film refers to the fact that the company's operatives gave all their surveillance subjects codenames. Father Arana's was "the Devil". However, that part of the story only takes up about a third of the film. What it lacks is a solid focus, one that should rest with the good Father and his cohorts. No amount of smug voiceover can match the poignancy of his words.

If we don't risk our lives to protect life, what sense is there in living?

The verdict is - worth viewing even if it was only to inform yourself about the Andean people and their poetically beautiful countryside, and the surreal struggle they find themselves embroiled in. You become absorbed by their story as you see it in the film.

You can check out the trailer here

Comments

  1. It is sad to think that there are greedy companies. They let people work for them to become richer in the future. It is sad indeed but it's a reality. I hope that people who work in the mining sites get what they deserve.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Film News - imagineNATIVE Embargo Collective at the Berlin Film Fest

Hot Off the Presses:
(and gosh, doesn't that expression sound quaint these days?)

imagineNATIVE’s EMBARGO COLLECTIVE
to have its European Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival 2010
(Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin 11.-21.02.10)

(Toronto, February 3rd, 2010) The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is pleased to announce the official selection of the festival’s Embargo Collective programme for the Forum Expanded section of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. This programme of works was commissioned by the imagineNATIVE festival for its 10th anniversary and will have its European premiere Monday, February 15th, 8.30pm at Cinema Arsenal 2 and a repeat screening Wednesday, February 17th, 4pm at CinemaxX 6.

Curated by imagineNATIVE’s Artistic Director Danis Goulet, the Embargo Collective is an international group of seven Indigenous artists at the forefront of the changing global landscape of Indigenous cinema. Inspired by Lars von Trier’s The Five Obstructi…

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company Spring 2013 Toronto Performances

From a media release:

The new season brings
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
to new heights and new audiences

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
April 25-28, 2013 - Annual Toronto Season - World Premiere of Portales

TORONTO : Following on the heels of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company's (EESDC) 30th anniversary year where its production Aguas/Waters was named one of the top five dance shows of 2012 by NOW Magazine, the early months of 2013 are full of excitement and possibility for Esmeralda and the company, which brings the finest flamenco and Spanish Classical Dance to Toronto stages.

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
Company dancers Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés perform Spanish Classical dance with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for A Night in Madrid featuring the Iberian flavoured music of composer Luigi Boccherini who made his home in Spain. His work is infused with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music.

March 20-24 …

Guitar Rock | Happy Freuds - Echo Of Sounds Independent: May 31, 2019

Guitar Rock
Happy Freuds - Echo Of Sounds
Independent: May 31, 2019
Stream/Buy on Bandcamp
Stream it on Spotify

With tight musicians and intriguing lyrics, Happy Freuds delivers high energy guitar rock with stylistic flair on Echo Of Sounds, their debut release. Produced with a minimum of overdubs or fixes, the album consists of a mix of original material, rearrangements of works from others and selected, less known, classic rock.

A kinetic rhythm section is the bones of the music, offering interesting patterns that augment sometimes unexpected harmonic changes. It's brainy rock, in other words, meant for music lovers who can appreciate the quality. Teo's vocals are raspy and expressive, growly when necessary - perfect for the musical mode. Teo also covers lead guitar, adapt at ear worm leads, with a tone that can be clean or dirty as required

Their sound ranges from straight up hard rock in tracks like The Mountain to the pop-flavoured acoustic Background Noise and folky To …