Release date:June 8, 2012
Studio:First Run Features
Deep in the heart of Chile's Patagonia region flow two of the world's purest rivers, the Baker and Pascua. Fed by vast glacial systems, these free-flowing watersheds drive biodiversity in temperate rainforests, estuaries and marine ecosystems. They also are the life source for Patagonia's most tenacious residents, the Gauchos. Five huge dams are planned for these rivers...but at what cost? "Patagonia Rising" captures the heated battle between those who wish to exploit the rivers and those who wish to preserve the rivers and surrounding lands, as well the traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants. Isolated and largely undeveloped, the gorgeous Patagonian landscape is dotted with remote ranches run by Gauchos, the cowboys of South America, who endure Patagonia's relentless winds and harsh, dark winters in the river valleys. Now a multi-national energy corporation has begun plans to build major hydroelectric dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers that would permanently alter the Patagonian landscape. Promoted as a renewable energy source, damming these major rivers would make floodplains out of river valleys, force many ranchers off their land and wreak havoc on the massive ice fields and watersheds already under stress from global warming. In the past three years increased flooding due to climate change has redefined the Baker River's floodplain and created death traps to families living in its path. For the Arratia clan, the loss of family, farmlands and live-stock has been tragic. Living directly below the Colonia Glacier, Juevenal Arratia was nearly killed by a flood while riding his horse. Downstream one of his nephews drowned while another remained trapped high inside a barn. Patagonia Rising captures the heated debate between Chile's energy corporations, who claim hydroelectric dams are necessary to serve Chile's increasing energy needs, and renewable energy experts, who claim Chile's needs could be met by more sustainable sources and conservation and decry the irreversible damage the dams would do to the environment, as well as the debate between Patagonians themselves. Globally, 45,000 major dams have been built over the past century, and have caused the once-teeming ocean life near the deltas of these rivers dwindle. Patagonia Rising calls into question the wisdom of blocking the world's major waterways. As Lilla's camera takes in the striking natural beauty of Patagonia's Andes mountains and plains, Patagonia Rising looks at water, power and whether power from the dams would be worth the high price.