Plans for the possible construction of three dams on the Futaleufú River in Chilean Patagonia has sparked a new 15-minute film that is a window into the budding conflict that could result in the destruction a world-renowned adventure destination and the loss of a culture.
“The way of life for the Patagonians is going to die there,” said Stephanie Haig, director and co-producer of the recently completed short environmental documentary, Fighting for the Futaleufú.
Endesa, the power company currently developing the hydroelectric project at the Futaleufú, is based in Spain and controlled by Italy’s Enel. The dams would come with a transmission line, open up the area to mining, and put much of the river valley underwater.
The film’s director said she lived in Chile when she was a child. Now 52-years-old, today Haig lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, but returned to Chile in 2012 to raft the Futaleufú accompanied by two Chilean women from Santiago.
“They were not outdoors people,” she said. “But when they were both on the phone talking with their families on the way home they were saying, ‘It is so beautiful, you just can not believe the beauty here. I can’t believe this is Chile.’”
The looming tragedy due to potential dams inspired Haig to do something to get other Chileans to see what these two women saw. Haig did not have personal experience with documentaries but she had a passion
for photography and environmental justice and a background in political science. She and her American travel companion Darrell Lorentzen
were soon joined in their documentary project by film editor Francisco Simbaña, director of photography Bruno Toré, and lead photographer Luke Lorentzen.
The group went to the river for 10 days in January this year, traveling down the Futaleufú River and interviewing more than two dozen people who live and work in the area and whose lives will be affected if the hydroelectric project moves ahead.
Haig hopes this documentary will inspire Chileans to stand up for their natural and cultural heritage, and viewers around the world to help them.
“I would describe this piece as a little love letter to the Futaleufú,” Haig said. “There are a lot of American-based ‘I love to come down here and play,’ films and ‘that would be sad if this is all dammed and I can’t kayak.’ To me, that is sad, but not nearly as sad as what this would do to the Chilean people.”
Haig adds: “Futaleufu is like a fairy tale, but those who have not seen it cannot truly anticipate its need for protection.”
The documentary, just completed in September, was recently shown at the Rockport Film Festival in Texas, winning Best Short Documentary prize, and at the Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival where it received
the “Saving Wild Spaces” environmental award.
The film will be shown at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, California, January 9-12, 2014.
To stay informed about the film and upcoming screenings, visit their Facebook page here.
And below a short trailer with a preview of the film:
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Haig/Fighting for the Futaleufu