Mirage of El Dorado
Directed by Martin Frigon | Productions Multi-Monde| Documentary | 75 mins | 2008
Grand Prize 2008, 26th Festival International du Film d’Environnement 2008 in Paris
Grand Prize (Premio Festival) 2009, 7th Festival Internacional de Cine Digital de Vina del Mar
Mirage of El Dorado leads us into the mountains of northern Chile, where the devastating operations of Canadian mining companies threaten a fragile ecosystem in one of the driest parts of the globe.
Our political cowboy flick follows the pitched battle between a farming community in the Huasco valley and Canada’s mining giant Barrick Gold with its sidekick Noranda (now part of the Suisse corporation Xstrata). It’s a battle fought high in the Cordilleran Andes where farmers and local representatives fear the ravages of open pit mining operations in a place where a fragile system of glaciers feeds the rivers that flow into the farmlands built out of the advancing Atacama desert.
The camera reveals a Chilean government impotent in the face of unprecedented, potentially devastating, mining projects. The film also exposes the hypocrisy of the Canadian government towards its own mining companies which corrupt foreign governments and weaken the process of environmental assessments. The permissive legislation enjoyed by the Canadian transnationals was imposed under the Pinochet dictatorship and carried over by successive transition governments, bowing to the dictates of neoliberal economics.
With a backdrop of breathtaking images and eloquent testimonials, Mirage of El Dorado defies the powers that would have us believe their divine mission is to extract wealth no matter where it lies, purportedly to save local communities from endemic poverty!
Martin Frigon’s first documentaries were inspired by the people and the vast maritime landscape of the Gaspé in Eastern Quebec where he grew up. He applied the cinéma vérité style he learned as a film student to document the rich and colourful lives and language of the fishers in his film Mourir au large (Dying at sea), and of miners left stranded by the multinational Noranda in Make Money, Salut, bonsoir! Using the documentary form, Martin gives a voice to the forgotten people of impoverished resource-based communities of the Gaspé, the third world in our midst, remarkable people who speak out about their hopes and desires for a better future, thwarting attempts to sweep them out of official history and current affairs.
Martin pursues these interests to the southern hemisphere in his latest film Mirage of El Dorado. He learned that Canadian-owned Noranda Mines was relocating its smelter from Murdochville in the Gaspé to northern Chili while he was filming Make Money, Salut, bonsoir! It was a story he felt compelled to follow and the resulting film, Mirage of El Dorado is a searing exposure of the impact of Canadian mining operations abroad.
Martin Frigon is not only a documentary filmmaker, but also a passionate writer, and social and history critic. His first book Contes, légendes et récits de l’Outaouais (Tales, legends and stories from the Ottawa Valley) was recently published by Éditions Trois-Pistoles.
Visit the film’s official website at http://pmm.qc.ca/eldorado/en/home.php
Watch the trailer: