Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Dark Truth

Damian Lee’s A Dark Truth (2012) is an action and thriller movie that narrates the story of an armed conflict between the people of an agrarian community in Ecuador, and an international corporation (helped by the local government) which has purchased all water rights of the area for their profit. Though conflicts over water have been reported in documentaries several times, the first movie about contested water rights in Latin America was Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain) in 2010. The drama was about the best-known reactionary conflict on the issue using information of real events experienced in Bolivia from an insider point of view (it portrayed the reality of those being affected by water privatization). However, Lee delivers this new production on the same topic but with a new perspective. Its plot focuses on the escalation of the armed battle and how it is handled internationally.

Clearbec, a Canadian corporation that has invested in water rights purchase in Latin America and South Africa to provide “quality water” back in North America, has been linked to a violent upheaval in one of its supplier countries. In a fictional village called Tayca in Ecuador (though the filming location is the Dominican Republic), an eco-activist has organized peasants to protest the privatization and exploitation of their water sources. In an attempt to stop the pacifist demonstrations, the military forces in Ecuador paid by Clearbec started a massacre targeting protestors and their leader, Francisco Francis (Forest Whitaker) who is now being accused of eco-terrorism. In Toronto, Jack (Andy García), a CIA retiree, is hired by one of the CEOs of the corporation to investigate what happened in Ecuador and bring back Francisco Francis, so all the world can know the truth, even if this could mean the decay of the water privatization business and the company’s reputation globally. Tensions become stronger and more violent between all the parties involved in both Ecuador and Canada when the dark truth is about to be revealed. Jack finds the ecology activist and takes him to Toronto so he can speak up about the ecological damages and the social injustices committed against Ecuadorian peasants to fulfill Clearbec’s economic interests.

Lee depicts corporate businesses that turn vital resources rights (such as water and air) into commodities with a price in the market as morally wrong. But in contrast to Bollaín's Even the Rain, this movie is not a political critique to private corporatism or neoliberalism. Any ideological position that the plot might suggest is ambiguous. For example, Jack opposes the privatization of water publicly, however, his opposition is only a personal point of view. It becomes a problem when he is informed that people are dying for it, the reason for escalating violence which he will not try to stop, but only help someone scape (an interesting narrative to build an action movie). That might be why deeper details about the problem are omitted.  In the same way, very little is said about Ecuador's government and politics other than corporate bribery that was used to induce the state's military involvement. Indeed, any other country in the world could be a perfect location for what this movie offers. 

Latin America is only a place, and the water privatization is only background information that gives the conflict, typical of a Hollywood action movie, a bit more of sense. And since portraying the place or the issue accurately is not of importance for this movie´s plot, simple aspects such as descriptions of Ecuadorean cities or its people are hugely mistaken such as knowing that its capital is not of tropical weather with jungle sounds in the background, or that “Esmeralda” province is actually called Esmeraldas. Even “typical” phrases Ecuadoreans might say and the way its people look are totally out of place. But those little things do not affect the overall story, the audience only needs to know that a bad company had corrupt businesses in some poor village in some part of a tropical place with a lot of natural resources to exploit, and this is morally wrong.

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