Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pulp, Poo & Perfection: Surfer Activists in Chile

Angel and I have just returned from 7 days in the heartland of Chile: we sought out and found the real human stories documenting pulp, poo and perfection with an HDV camera in hand and many hard questions at heart. Angel is a Chilean camera man/film director/ultra hyper Chilean-who-surfs and we are the ultimate documentary film team: he all noisy friendly extroversion seeking the perfect angle while he cracks up the interviewee; me all profoundly serious introversion seeking righteous rural redemption via the cleanest line, finding the bloody beating heart of the subject matter. On the road and in southern cornfields we met and broke bread - pan amasado - with coastal Mapuche indians, proud right winger cowboys, straight corporate talking heads and anti-system rednecks in the purest of the backwood Chilean rural style: huaso. This is the salt of the earth.

In the deepest south we stayed with Ruperto and his family in front of a tubing 3 foot wave - they hosted us with freshly boiled cow tongue, net-caught congrio, potatoes from the backyard, powdered tea and neighbors falling-down blind-drunk on one Cristal beer. Every day we surfed the dawn patrol - out of bed with moonset and a hot yerba mate, in the cold dark ocean by 7am - and after a hearty post-surf breakfast we set out on the dusty road to film interviews, follow rumours, chase changing landscapes and foggy light swallowing road dust.

In Pichilemu we had surf sessions and great interviews with Chile's homegrown surf star Ramon Navarro, his neighbor Puño (named for his fast fists) and Ramon's 14-year-old cousin Nacho, who's already a big-wave hell man. They spoke about their leading role in the local opposition to a sewage pipeline proposed for downtown Pichilemu's main surfing beach. Heroes! We also filmed the Laguna Petrel, a freshwater body near downtown Pichilemu that's fluorescent green from sewage and chemicals. And its smell is even worse than the photo:

In Constitucion we met fishermen living in front of the town's busy pulp mill located on the beach. The beach stank of chemicals. The fishermen spoke of ocean pollution and we watched as the forestry company's heavy equipment "armored" the beach to protect its pipeline that dumps liquid cellulose waste into the ocean. This is the real state of South America's industrial forestry complex. This is what supplies your office copy machine with cheap, bright white paper. Your favorite magazine exists so cheaply and so massively because of this industry.

Going south we drove through hundreds of thousands of acres of planted Oregon pine and eucalyptus forest on our way to the Nueva Aldea pulp mill. There we met eager public relations executives. They are eager to show us the modern industrial plant they have, and the efforts they're making to work with the local community. But we also met angry local people who are breathing rotten-egg-smelling air everyday thanks to the new mill. Not to mention the hundreds of neighbors who have to put up with 24-hour truck traffic bringing wood, chemicals and construction materials to the mill. We also met Nato, the last man standing between the pulp mill and the ocean. He won't sell his 5 acres of land to the company for its underground waste pipeline. The wood company will eventually wear down this last humane holdout with their corporate "gifts", or they will reroute their pipeline through other purchased acreage.

Stay tuned for our documentary movie "Pulp, Poo and Perfection" starring reality of Chile and produced by Save the Waves Coalition ...coming soon.