After a year spent in Peru undertaking research for a Latin American Studies degree, Michael Watts was joined by David McNulty and local journalist Nelson Penaherrera. Together they traveled to the mountains of northern Peru to document the local opposition to the Rio Blanco mine. The film's aim is to show the as yet untold farmer's side of the story: to promote the voice of those who are often under represented in mainstream media.
On the 21st of April 2004 5000 farmers from Huancabamba province, Northern Peru, marched to peacefully protest against a proposed mine in their area. The farmers feared possible contamination of their fresh water sources and were angry they had not been consulted over the project. Going with peaceful intentions to establish a dialogue with the mining company and representatives from the Peruvian government, the protesters were met with armed police.
In the ensuing chaos a protester, Reemberto Herrera Racho lost his life. According to the police he fell down a hill; according to eyewitnesses he was hit in the head by a tear gas grenade.
Rio Blanco, The Story of the Farmer and the Mine is an investigation into the events surrounding the protest and it’s tragic conclusion. It draws from footage shot at the time, interviews with protesters who attended the march and the resulting press coverage. The film builds a picture of what happened and how it was portrayed afterwards in the national and international media.
The documentary highlights the autocratic nature in which many multinational companies operate in the developing world and the conflicts that arise from the lack of dialogue between corporation and community.