Marrow of the Mountain
A documentary about mining in Ecuador, centering the voices of women and an expedition to the heart of the forest. Tax deductible!
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sun, June 23 2019 6:59 AM UTC +00:00.
ABOUT THE FILM
Mega-mining has come to Ecuador. In 2017, multinational mining companies bought the rights to huge swaths of the country, leaving Ecuador’s most sensitive and biodiverse habitats at the mercy of international mining interests. This happened suddenly, and without public knowledge or consent; most of these sales are in the mineral-rich and endangered Chocó Rainforest. Told in the voices of three women, we witness the deep impact of extractive industry on Ecuadorian lives, as they struggle to protect their families and communities whilst the land is being sold out from under their feet.
All donations made to our Kickstarter campaign are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE through Eclectic Reel, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to grass-roots documentary film!
This is a documentary with a social focus; we see the impact on local communities of expanding mining in northwest Ecuador. It is also a documentary about the effects of mining on nature, focusing specifically on the unique Chocó Rainforest, exploring its significance, beauty, and importance alongside the crew of a National Geographic expedition into the heart of the forest.
We begin in the Intag Valley, where huge chunks of land encompassing whole townships have been sold in mining concessions. Isabel Anagono, a 70 year old Afro-Ecuadorian writer and activist, was born in the Intag; she gave birth to 6 children, and buried 2 in the fertile valley soil where she and her husband farm. Isabel and her husband have watched the rainy season become dry, and the Intag river become polluted from the towns upstream. From there, we travel to the Los Cedros Biological Reserve in a neighboring valley, where concessions cover two-thirds of this 17,000 acre protected forest. Forests like Los Cedros, known as ‘Bosques Protectores’, are wildlands that have been protected by the Ecuadorian government, but in 2017 the government decided that these forests were not protected from mining. Here on the reserve, we are introduced to Elisa Levy, an Ecuadorian biologist in her mid-30s, along with the crew of the ‘Richer Than Gold’ expedition, a multinational group of scientists from the United States and Ecuador, who are working together to explore the endangered Chocó Cloud Forest habitat of Los Cedros before it is lost. Finally, we travel north with Elisa to the border between Ecuador and Colombia, to the indigenous Awá community of El Baboso, the geographically closest indigenous community to Los Cedros,where we meet Filomena Rosero, a female elder in the Awá community. Her words are heart-wrenching and poetic as she talks about the difficult future of the Awá.
All three narratives collide in the ongoing legal battle for the future of Los Cedros, which has far-reaching implications for all protected forests in Ecuador. The representative for the Ministry of Environment has said that “protected forests are not protected”, a point of view that radically re-interprets the role that protected forests play in the future of conservation in Ecuador. It also undermines the investment that many communities have made in creating protected forests on their lands to stave off contamination of their rivers and degradation of their forests.
We need this film. The exploitation of Latin America by extractive industry is a current — and difficult — issue affecting many indigenous and rural Andean communities. Conflict around extractive industry is silencing the voices of environmental defenders. In Ecuador, the Shuar indigenous leader José Isidro Tendetza Antún was murdered in 2014. Globally, 207 environmental activists were killed in 2017 alone, 60% of them in Latin American countries. Adding political complexity to the situation, Ecuador is the first country to include in its constitution explicit recognition of the Rights of Nature. In the quest for wealth, the Ecuador and the multinational mining companies working there have endangered the country’s most precious resource, its biodiversity. Ecuador’s rainforests protect more species per acre than anywhere else in the world, and yet more than 30% of the country's protected forests (bosques protectores) are now threatened by mining.
This film serves as an important step in creating accountability for multinational extractive industry. Folks from industrialized nations, particularly North Americans and Australians, are connected to the drama unfolding in Ecuador through their consumer choices. The demand for the metals produced by these mines is primarily driven by consumer electronics — cell phones, tablets, and laptops — and the corporations primarily responsible for environmental and human rights abuses we are seeing across Latin America are located in these countries.
We are deeply invested in future of all the individuals we met filming this winter,and very much hope to impact their struggle in the best way we know how, by creating awareness with this film. Our goal is to help educate people about the real life struggles and threats many communities are facing, and how North Americans are connected to this struggle by what they consume. We hope that this exposure will put pressure on the Ecuadorian government and the mining industry to more clearly weigh the impacts of their decisions. This documentary will have a huge impact on the future of Ecuador and Latin America, and how international extractive industry chooses to do business in the future.
You support for this project is vital to brining this film into existence. Your tax-deductible pledge will help fund the a second shoot in Ecuador, which necessary to complete the project, as well as providing vital income for several of our Ecuadorian colleagues, including our editor Antonella Carrasco.
We're super happy to be working with Eclectic Reel, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that specializes in bringing impactful, grass-roots documentaries like ours to light. The upshot of that relationship for you is: your donations are tax deductible in the USA.
With the National Geographic Richer Than Gold expedition providing a hard date for our initial shoot, this project moved from initial conception to shooting quite rapidly. Through a combination of volunteer labor, University-loaned equipment, and initial investment by the production team and the expedition itself, we managed to have an incredibly successful initial exploratory shoot. While some staff (directors and producer) are able to provide significant volunteer labor, others are not: our Ecuadorian colleagues do not have the ability to spend periods of time without income. The North Americans involved with this film are committed to using the privilege afforded by our status as United States citizens, to support our colleagues Ecuador, with its more tenuous economy and reduced access to global resource pools.
To get into specifics, we need roughly $9,000 to pay for editing by Antonella, and about $5,000 for our second shoot, which will cover at least four locations in Ecuador over the course of about 50 days, and include a crew of four (both co-directors, cinematographer, and producer, who doubles as sound). The balance of the goal is for Kickstarter fees and production of physical rewards.
FILM CREW — Why Us?
This film is a co-production between Ecuadorian and American filmmakers, and is being co-directed by Solange Yepez and Dylan Stirewalt. We believe we are the best team to take on this project, not only because of the substantial footage we have already collected, but because the international nature of our team and the connections we have already built give us the ability to return and capture more in a way that no one else could. Dylan took on this project through the invitation of a longtime friend, producer Dr. Roo Vandegrift, one of the key scientists and the principal investigator for the National Geographic expedition. Roo has traveled to Ecuador multiple times and is deeply embedded in the environmental activist community there. These connections granted us access to communities and individuals that otherwise would be overlooked and difficult to access, such as the Los Cedros Biological Reserve and the Indigenous Awá Community.
However, what gives us the most unique perspective on this story is having both a female and a non-binary femme director; through this lens, we focus on female characters that have been consistently overlooked by other filmmakers. Utilizing a cinematic style of poetry to soften the scientific nature of this story, we seek to evoke beauty and emotion in the viewer, to make them fall in love with nature as deeply as all the characters — and we — have.
We’ve been working on some excellent rewards for you! The primary reward is, of course, a digital copy of movie Marrow of the Mountain! In addition to that, we've got the coolest art, drawn specifically for this Kickstarter by producer Roo Vandegrift, which we'll be making into t-shirts and patches as rewards. We're also offering thanks in the credits, shout-outs on social media, and Executive Producer credit.
We're happy to be sponsored by some really excellent organizations, including notable support from the Rainforest Information Centre and MiningWatch Canada, in addition to our relationship with Eclectic Reel.
Risks and challenges
All of the major participants in the project (co-directors Dylan and Solange, producer Roo, and editor Antonella) are extremely committed to the project; all of the primary subjects of our documentary (Isabel, Elisa, Filomena) are also super committed to brining this movie to fruition. The American members of the team are generally able to donate substantial time and resources to the project, but we are struggling to raise the funds to complete this film at the quality that it truly deserves: movies are expensive! That's why we're reaching out to all of you — we can't make this film without you!
We have finished our initial shoot, and have 30 interviews, totaling over 20 hours of footage; we also have footage from 11 different sites in Ecuador, including the El Corazón mine in Magdalena, the research station and field camp at Los Cedros, and the Awá indigenous community of El Baboso. We have continuing access to people and locations. The producer is also the organizing scientist behind the National Geographic expedition, providing continuing access to the scientific community around Los Cedros. The producer and director are both directly involved in the environmental activism movement surrounding mining in northern Ecuador, providing continuing access to legal and community resistance in the region. Our Co-Director Solange Yepez and Editor Antonella Carrasco are both Ecuadorian and live in Quito, and are able to film important protests and court cases as needed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter