News - October 6, 2015

Movies: Mining Sacred Worlds

Koen Guiking

Indigenous peoples are being evicted from their lands for mining and extractive industries. This is the theme of the four day mini film festival ‘Mining sacred worlds’, running until Thursday the 8th at the MovieW cinema in Wageningen.

The initiators are Bas Verschuuren and Oscar Reyna, both PhD candidates at the department of Sociology of Development and Change at Wageningen University. They do research on how vulnerable sacred natural sites can be protected from aggressive mining companies.

'Oscar told me he had seen a really great movie about the indigenous peoples he works with in Mexico. Then I showed Oscar the movies that I knew about’, said Verschuuren. They realized that these dramatic documentaries shared an insightful understanding of what they are both working on so why not organize a film festival and get others interested? They joined hands with RUW, Otherwise and Movie W film theatre.

The first film shown on Monday the 5th of October pictured indigenous people in their struggle against mining in Papua New Guinea and Canada. ‘To local people these are sacred lands’, according to Verschuuren. ‘Indigenous people live in close relationship with nature. They have protected and managed their sacred places for generations. That's why these areas often contain high levels of biodiversity. However, mining companies view these places quite differently.' They close deals with national governments about the extraction of resources. Driven by profit they have little regard for the traditional owners of these lands and for the protection and conservation of the natural and cultural diversity they contain, as shown in the documentary of Christopher McLeod.

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On Tuesday the 6th and Wednesday the 7th of October more documentaries of filmmaker Christopher McLeod will be screened. The festival will close on Thursday the 8th with “Huicholes, the last Peyote Guardians”. The film about an indigenous group in Mexico that protect their ancestral lands that contain the Peyote-cactus will be preceded by a lecture of Oscar Reyna sharing his research in Mexico.

Verschuuren regularly makes use of McLeod’s films in training courses and university lectures, but he sees more opportunities. He is contemplating to organize multiple film festivals elsewhere. Together with McLeod, which he got to know through his work abroad, he is also planning to give more attention to the issues at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. ‘You can publish a book’, says Verschuuren, who also co-founded the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative, ‘but you have to make sure that the information gets to the ground, that its being taken up, read and cited and that it starts to matter to people.’

For more information: filmfestival Mining sacred worlds.