Ecuadoran farmers fight off violent attacks from militia men as they battle a Canadian mining company.
In the opening moments of Malcolm Rogge's unsettling and eye-opening Under Rich Earth, a group of small children point to some gun shells lying in the dirt at the edge of a rural road in Ecuador. Who put the shells there and why are matters of great contention and conflict. The former owners of the casings maintain that the incident resulting in their new roadside location never actually happened. But in the eyes of the people at whom the bullets were fired, the 2006 event is very real, representing the latest escalation of a decade-old fight over land, resources and environmental autonomy. In the mid-nineties, a Japanese mining company secured the rights to extract copper in the northwest part of Ecuador known as Intag, one of the world's most environmentally threatened regions. Residents staged massive protests against the project, which ended in the burning of a mining camp and the departure of the company. But in 2002, despite an ordinance banning mining in the area, the Ministry of Energy and Mines sold the area's two mining concessions, which ended up in the hands of the Canadian company Ascendant Copper. More protests followed, and tensions were exacerbated by the hiring of outside companies that used intimidation to control the area. The conflict eventually peaked in the vicious confrontation that left those shells by the roadside. Using revealing and startling footage, Rogge reconstructs what happened that day in 2006, and links the violent images to global economics. A display of front-line journalism at its best, the footage leaves little doubt of what actually occurred, yet the interpretations by the different parties, particularly those from the company that hired the shooters, provide a fascinating glimpse into corporate spin and the politics of globalization. An indictment of governmental largesse, environmental exploitation and corporate greed, Under Rich Earth is urgent and vital filmmaking in the spirit of past Festival favourites like Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and Manufactured Landscapes. Emotionally gripping and politically motivating, Under Rich Earth exposes the truth – not just about what happened that singular day, but also about just how pervasive such stories are on our planet today.[from the TIFF website]