Country: United States
Language: English, Chilean (with subtitles)
Directors: Brian Lilla
Featuring: Dam builders, dam opponents, and citizens of Chile
Run time: 80 minutes
DVD distributor: First Run Features
On July 24th, First Run Features releases Patagonia Rising, a documentary about a proposed dam project on rivers in Chile. This project would create five hydroelectric dams on two rivers, generating an enormous amount of electricity for the region but at a very high price.
The environmentalists in the film explain the impact of massive dams in a very patient manner. Then some local farmers put a face on the environmental consequences that would result from the building of the dams. Then, I guess just to appear a little more balanced, they talk to the guy overseeing the project, who explains that the dams would produce electricity for the region equivalent to five coal fired plants and are therefore more environmentally friendly. In the end though, the film makers come down decidedly on the side of the people in the region and against the dams.
This is all OK, but a lot of it feels like filler. I liked being walked through the effects dams have on the environment and the local ecosystems. Before now, the only thing I knew about dams was that I once went to the Hoover Dam and thought, holy cow, that’s big! It’s just that with the interviews of Chilean people who don’t seem to know much about the situation, Patagonia Rising felt like a 30—minute documentary stretched out to 80.