Friday, May 18, 2018

The Rundown

During the colonial period, European explorers were convinced that the legendary gold city called El Dorado was real. Desires of finding that promising place full of gold inspired numerous movies such as “Aguirre, Wrath of God” (1972) and the animated movie “El Dorado” (2000), among others. These fantasy stories recounted adventures of imperialist explorers looking for hidden gold mines in the Amazon rainforest. But how would life look like if the legend of El Dorado was not a tale, but a reality? It is that possibility that Peter Berg presents in The Rundown (2003). Berg creates another treasure-hunting adventure in the dystopic reality of a village called “Hell Dorado” (indigenous from the Amazon replace El by Hell expressing their opposition to the gold mining companies looking for their village).

Beck (Dwayne Johnson) goes to the Brazilian Amazon looking for an American guy (Travis) that should take back to the United States. The huge Amazon rainforest is shown in a wide shot accompanied by the lyrics of a soundtrack shouting “don’t bring guns home”. This shot establishes a romantic view of nature, a beautiful place that has not been touched yet. However, on the way to El Dorado, there are a lot of contradictions that make the idealization of nature fall apart. Beck is warned to stay away from the jungle and from a group of rebels that will otherwise kill him. Once in El Dorado, Beck is introduced to the owner of the biggest gold mine in the area, which is also a source of political and economic power over all the Brazilian people, especially over the poor families living from their work in the mines. For foreign mining investors, the once celebrated source of gold is still a promising way to become rich, however, for the Amazon communities that gold was only the source of an eternal slavery and destruction of nature.

In the middle of the mission, Beck and Travis are caught in traps of the rebel group. After some time coexisting with the group, Beck realizes that the foreign company has influenced him and many visitors in the are with a wrong perception about the intentions of the so-called “rebels”. Indeed, they are rebelling but against oppression. This group of native Amazonians fight against the mining company that even though has provided with some infrastructure and “modern” lifestyle, it has also brought instability, poverty and ways to keep the village under dependency. Both the company personnel and the “rebel” group start a search for a golden statue shaped like a cat that is hidden in the Amazon. Such object will provide the local community with freedom from the monopoly of gold mines, and reform the economic system with practices such as agriculture, among other ones that would go in accordance with their ancestral traditions.

The movie ends with the successful searching of the golden item, and the expulsion of the mining company from the Amazon. The dystopia is eliminated from the plot and the Brazilian Amazon becomes a land ruled by Brazilians. Nevertheless, the fight was not to come back to the previous indigenous lifestyle but to improve the conditions in which modernity is imposed. Because of coloniality people's culture and beliefs are shaped and it is almost impossible to decolonize them. For example, the mine owner insults the natives for being unthankful since he gave shoes for the barefoot indigenous and hired them to buy things they want. Even though natives reject everything that comes from the mining business, they will not stop using clothes or shoes, instead, this is adapted to their own lifestyle.

The visual dichotomies proposed throughout the plot between the beauty of the jungle and the social injustices of people taking advantage of its resources are shocking. The ways in which Latin America, its people, and the people looking for its treasures (natural resources) are portrayed make a call to reflection, especially in the negative environmental and social impacts that resource-extraction monopolies could cause.=

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