Festiver 2023

Cathy Holt
5 min readOct 3, 2023

Barichara’s green/environmental festival of films from many countries

Green film festival, outdoor screen, sunset

I look forward to this free film festival each year. Many are short documentaries, some feature-length; most films are in Spanish or in another language (such as Portuguese, French or occasionally English) with Spanish subtitles. Good practice for me! There are two screens (one outdoors in the park), and three days packed with films. The strongest themes this year were the plastic trash in the ocean, and the devastation of indigenous lands with mining.

Argentina: Urban gardens are being planted for butterflies and pollinators; native plants are grown on balconies, in yards, on patios, to attract 15 species.

“Sustainable Santa Marta”: The river flowing to the sea in Santa Marta, Colombia, is like a sewer. People wrapped plastic bottles in chain link fencing to form permeable dams, to hold back the trash and allow it to be collected and cleaned up, preventing it from flowing to the ocean. In Santa Marta, microplastics have been found in the stomachs of fish and other sea creatures. Some pathogens, such as pseudomonas, attach to plastics; fish can become contaminated thus and it is passed on to humans. Plastic takes 500–1000 years to degrade. And yet, 1,400,000 tons of plastic per year are used in Colombia alone, with the majority not recycled. Swamps or wetlands are crucial. Planting mangroves is essential to their health.

Indonesia: indigenous youth are returning to their communities, doing organic farming and tree planting. They have formed 30 farming groups, and are creating the alternative to palm oil plantations. The youth have also initiated 82 indigenous schools.

“Illusion of Abundance” is a film about mining for petroleum and gold in Cajamarca, Peru. This mining, usually done by usurping indigenous land, is creating “water sacrifice zones,” where the water is too contaminated to use. Those who resist are beaten and sent to jail. Peru’s president pretended that it is possible to have water AND gold. But a movement known as the “Conga” project brought these issues to the Supreme Court of Peru and won a positive ruling.

Honduras: Berta Caceres was assassinated in 2016 for organizing to protect indigenous Lenca lands from illegal logging. Her daughter, also named Berta, carries on the work of her mother. “Rivers of resistance” were formed among the people after a landslide caused by mining killed 275 people and devastated their homes. The mining company did nothing to restore the land. This same mine caused a second landslide, and the CEO was charged with murder. But many European and Asian investors, including the European Union and Deutsche Bank, are continuing to support mining. Over 2,000 indigenous people in Honduras have been assassinated for defending their environment.

“Listen — the earth has been destroyed” is a documentary about three indigenous Amazonian tribes in Brazil joining to protect their indigenous lands from mining threats. The Kayapo, also known as the Mebengokre, grow camote and yuca, and gather acai berries and other medicines in the forest. “We are the same as the earth,” they say. The Yanomami, who adorn their faces with special sticks, say that the new generation is forgetting the songs, dances and language; the young are being assimilated with the white culture. The whites don’t see the value of indigenous ways, they are only after money from gold. The Yanomami refer to money as “sad leaves.” The whites, they say, show documents giving them permission to mine. They have already cut trees, dynamited and destroyed a large part of the earth, abused women, exploited children, killed rivers, and ruined much of the indigenous way of life. They dump waste into or near rivers, contaminating them with mercury. Animals and fish flee the destruction and noise. Children are being born deformed, women suffer spontaneous abortions, and there is spiritual sickness, the people say. People, including many children, are dying of disease. “The sick river asks for help,” they say. The women speak out: “If the earth suffers, we suffer.”

The Munduruku people dance with faces painted and bird feathers in their hair. They joined the alliance, proclaiming: “We are one blood, one heart. Our lives are not negotiable.” One woman said, “Wealth is not gold. It’s this moment spent together in an ancestral alliance.” Another added, “Whites wouldn’t allow us to break into their houses and take things. Yet this is what they do when they invade and destroy the forests. They must respect the forest and our bodies.”

But mega-mining is supported by the Brazilian government. “Accept mining, and it will solve all your problems,” officials say.

“Northern Forests” documents the movement to defend forests above the city of Istanbul, Turkey, from the effects of sand, pebble, and stone mining and creating an airport. Scene after scene of desolated moonscapes with huge machines and explosives. 13 million trees were cut down and 20 lakes were filled in while others were contaminated. KOS was the group fighting against this; “Defending our water and air is a revolutionary act,” they said. They tried to point out that Istanbul’s only water source would become undrinkable. Endless trucks stirred up huge clouds of dust and their diesel fumes contaminated the air of the villages, asphyxiating the people. In the end, the people lost their court case and the airport was built.

“Firestorm in Patagonia”: Following months of drought, six fires all broke out at the same time, ripping through the forests at unheard-of speed, destroying 11 million hectares on Jan. 9, 2021. 50 meters a minute were burned and human lives were lost. Many speculate that the fires were set by an arsonist. But why? The result of the fires was that electricity was halted for weeks. Some believe that the cables in and near the forest had not been kept up to date, that officials had abandoned the area, and that fires were intentionally set by big business in an attempt to hide their negligence.

“Sofia Returns” — Besides all the hard-hitting documentaries, there was one fictional film that I enjoyed. Sofia is an unhappy young ballerina living in a big city, hearing reports about plastic pollution, and taking antidepressants. She decides to make a radical change, returning to a small island in the Caribbean where she had lived as a child with her family. Her parents had died years before. The old black women of the island say that the girl’s mother had been a beautiful woman who was a fish from the waist down — a mermaid. Sofia finds a new life, snorkeling and delighting in the beautiful colorful fish and other sea creatures. She undertakes a huge cleanup of the plastic trash caught in the mangroves, inspiring several young children to help her. Beautiful scenes of the young woman in flippers dancing under the turquoise waters, as much at home as any mermaid.



Cathy Holt

Cathy has been living in Colombia for 2 years. She’s passionate about regenerating landscapes with water retention, agro-forestry, and biogas digestors.