Maxima @ Human Rights Film Festival

When the chips are down it is often women, deemed the weaker sex, who stand up in face of great odds. Women defend their families and land against larger/stronger foes. Director Claudia Sparrow’s (I Remember You) documentary turns its lens on a Peruvian woman, Maxima Acuna, who stood up for hers and her family’s rights against a huge mining corporation.

Maxima and her family reside in the Highlands of Peru. They rely on an agrarian life to survive. They purchased land there and raise sheep and grow crops. In a case of location, location, location, their land is within an area which has attracted the attention of a large mining corporation.

Sparrow is a native of Peru and this is a story which captured her attention. So much so that being a filmmaker she decided to bring more attention to it and Maxima’s fortitude by making a film. In this world presently (and probably always) indigenous people often get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Being seen as “small” and often in the way by corporations attempting to make money off mining, technology or the like, the land they revere, treat well and need for survival. Here is another example. Goliath attempting to squash David. Or in this case, Davida.

Billed as a film about one woman’s fight against corporate greed. U.S. based Newmont Mining Corporation is a multinational company. They have set their eyes on an area in the Peruvian Highlands. Out of this interest a multi-billion dollar project is borne. Companies like this and (largely) mining corporations are all about profit earned and do not give a fig about the environment. They will extract what they want from the Earth, often destroying the land. Plus they are not often patient about those who own the land they are interested in. So devious methods are used like intimidation or even violence.

For the Acunas their land lies in the path of the mining project. As such, Newmont will stop at nothing to get it. They want to extract the gold from the land. Instances of intimidation and even physical violence start. Maxima, though not backed by anyone and a small woman in stature, stands up to them. No matter how many beatings she takes. The company begins to recognize this so they up the game to criminal prosecution.

Despite the odds stacked against her, Maxima continues to fight. She owns the land. She is in the right here. Maxima wants justice. She even goes to the Peru Supreme Court to achieve it. Her fight earns her attention, nationally and globally, as well as the 2016 Environmental Goldman Prize.

This is a world in which the almighty dollar is top of the heap. Even above humans and the condition of the planet we live on. More and more often we hear stories like this one. Large companies running ramshod over individuals or groups. Often these people are the most vulnerable – folks of colour, the poor or the voiceless. Here is a story which should inspire for many reasons. Should give us hope. Show that one person can make a difference.

The film is screening at the Human Rights Film Festival (happening online) after taking part in HotDocs where it won the prestigious Audience Award.

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