I want you to imagine for a second that you own a home. Maybe you do although given the current hosing market I highly doubt it. Bear with me though; you own a house. You’ve lived there all your life; maintaining the building and tending to the garden as you go about your life. It provides for you during good times and bad; providing shelter for you and your family.
Now I want you to imagine that the street you live on has a community association, and they’ve decided to let some guys come around and smash up your floor boards and vomit in your sink. Congratulations! You’ve just experienced the lives of the people in When Two Worlds Collide (2016).
The documentary covers the 2009 Peruvian political crisis, and follows indigenous activist and spokesman Alberto Pizango as he leads protests against the actions of President Alan Garcia; who has signed a Free Trade deal with the U.S.
Garcia, eager to bring Peru onto the world stage, begins a process of introducing laws allowing land belonging to the indigenous people to be sold off to transnational companies with the aim of exploiting reserves of natural gas, minerals and oil.
Somethings never change.
As the destruction of the land for oil threatens the livelihood and wellbeing of thousands of indigenous communities within the Peruvian Amazon, the cry of protest begins. Pizango and his supporters argue that since the communities were not represented or consulted when the land was sold out from under them then the new laws are unconstitutional. The documentary follows the sixty five straight days of protests and acts of civil disobedience around the country as Pizango campaigns to have the laws repealed.
After Garcia declares a state of emergency and blocks any chance of parliamentary debate on repealing the laws; the army and police are sent in to clear the protesters in violation of an Agreement of Understanding, resulting in the infamous “Battle” at Devil’s Curve. The action sees a huge loss of life with twenty three police and ten indigenous protesters being killed and a further 155 protesters wounded. As Garcia declares a state of emergency with a crackdown on civil liberties Pizango flees to Nicaragua.
The remainder of the film follows the aftermath of the Battle as police are taken hostage; fresh waves of protest erupt across Prue and the public blame the violence on the government’s decision to sending the soldiers in, and Pizango returns to face charges of sedition and conspiracy to instigate murder.
The film is, at times anyway, difficult to watch and does not shy away from the graphic reality of the crack down on the protesters. Garcia’s condemnation of indigenous peoples as traitors to Prue, wanting to hold her back in some dark age, makes the blood boil. However throughout the film the blame for the violence is placed squarely at Garcia’s door; it was him that ordered that the army be sent in to break up the protesters and it was him that sold off the land to the multinationals. This is a view echoed by many including the father of the missing police officer who finds out that his son was killed. In contrast the arguments put forward by Pizango and his supporters are logical rather than emotional; they want to protect their home and be represented in further dealings.
Employing several styles and formats the film uses original footage; news reels; phone footage and interviews with key players to create a gripping narrative.
The film isn’t without its issues however; it leaves out much of the back story including the 2008 oil scandal in which members of Garcia’s party were caught on tape accepting bribes from large multinationals for rights to start drilling. At times it feels like a news report rather than a documentary; with a sterile, neutral presentation. And yet in the next scene it changes gear and becomes an impassioned plea. A simple maintaining of tone would be nice.
A people pushed so far will eventually push back and When Two Worlds Collide shows this without judgement or condemnation. It is a compelling and poignant film; an expository documentary that highlights the damaging effects of globalization has on both the planet and its people.
When Two Worlds Collide offers an examination of a marginalised people protecting their home before someone smashes up the floor boards.
Dir: Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel
Prd: Taira Akbar
Music: H. Scott Salinas
Country: USA, Prue
When Two Worlds Collide is in UK cinemas from 9th September 2016