‘When Two Worlds Collide’, the tragic price of development

In the Amazon, a land stuck between ambitions and ancient cultural traditions, the violent mining threat promoted by the Government puts two very different worlds one against the other. The ideals  of these two worlds are as different as their future perspective, and so hard to reconcile.

When Two Worlds Collide” is the beautiful and touching documentary film directed by Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel that won the Best International Documentary Award at CinemAmbiente 2016 in Turin, member of Green Film Network. And this is its story.

When Two Worlds Collide - Alberto Pizango
Without considering the impact on the indigenous people and on the environment, the extraction of oil, minerals and natural gas promoted by Peruvian President Alan García caused a big rift with the local people.

My co-filmmakers (Mathew Orzel, Director, and Taira Akbar, Producer) and I stumbled upon a news article on the 2009 Us-Peru Free Trade Agreement“, told us the director Heidi Brandenburg, whom we talked about the film with. “The Peruvian Congress used this opportunity to bypass indigenous rights, exploit their ancestral lands, and open up the Amazon for corporate investment. Within a year, 72% of the Peruvian Amazon was parceled out to oil and gas concessions“.

The leader of the indigenous protest is Alberto Pizango, a charismatic man whose opposition to the Government is very strong. With his speeches and actions, he gets more and more support in order to stop the intensive mining activity.

When Two Worlds Collide
The huge opposition by the indigenous people pulled us incontinues the director. “Deep inside the Amazon, we saw the real impacts of 45 years of contamination from oil extraction. There was no benefit to the people or their communities. Rather, this ‘development’ cut into the fabric of their way of life, which hinges on the well-being of the rainforest and of its people. We learned what was at stake if the rainforest was increasingly exploited. Our tireless investigation led us to Pizango at the right time to capture this story, not knowing what lay ahead“.

The fight between García and the opponents led by Pizango becomes more and more heated and uncontrolled. The protests- repressed by the police- degenerate into violent riots and bloody clashes with irreversible consequences. ‘When Two Worlds Collide” documents the tragic end of the collision between these two realities, which are so different though painfully united by death.

Pizango is considered responsible for the clashes, but at the same time the national public opinion debates the need to review the mining concessions, questioning the actions of the Government on a political, social and media level.

When Two Worlds Collide Pizango
We set out to deliver an observational and cinematic documentary“, adds the director Mathew Orzel. “The storyline is based on observational footage of the buildup and the fallout from the events at Bagua. However, the majesty of the rainforest and what is at stake cried out to be captured with a cinematic perspective. We use these powerful visuals to remind audiences of the underlying message throughout the film. In addition, the political drama behind our story deserved the historical accuracy only archival footage can present, and we backed up the political explanations with select interviews. That distinct combination lets the viewers be present everywhere at once, allowing them to experience a wider perspective of the events unfolding“.

Killing the rainforest is killing a whole culture: it’s a too high price in the name of the dream of a development that shouldn’t be allowed to sacrifice any human life or the well-being of the planet.

For change to happen, there needs to be awareness first“, concludes the director Heidi Brandenburg. “Documentary film, as an art form, has the power to create awareness on issues that few people talk about and impact the audience with a sense of urgency. It gives viewers a chance to step back and see the bigger picture. In the end, it enables viewers, armed with information, to act more powerfully on a topic. ‘When Two Worlds Collide’, in particular, reminds us that other cultures exist and that those cultures create immeasurable value for us all. We hope that viewers walk away questioning their assumptions on the cost of development. We want the audience to feel a sense of urgency to further the global dialogue on the balance between resource extraction and the people and environments it impacts“.