Environmental Justice and Media

Tambien La Lluvia image

Tambien La Lluvia

All film/media is bathed in “ideology” (see Hageman ref)

  • concept of “ideology” = the frameworks and norms that we live in
    • background assumptions about how things are and how things should be
      • often invisible to us
      • makes possible but also limit what we think and do
    • conveyed/incorporated/enforced in language, media and institutions
      • family, schools, law, government, businesses
    • changes over time and is different in different cultures
      • concept of “material base” in dialectical relationship with ideology
        • e.g. the way you are alive/make a living
    • concept of “dominant narratives” in ideology that control people

Ideology works at the level of content and the level of form (not really separable)

  • the ideas that the author codes and the audience/player decodes
    • references, connotations (only meaningful with shared frames of reference)
    • e.g. references to Christopher Columbus (hero or villain), race and colonialization
    • e.g. how difficult is it to understand TLL because of cultural differences?
  • form and structure – also interpreted and decoded by audience/player
    • structures: narrative, cognitive, traditional, experimental
    • examples
      • documentary – a voice of authority = ideological choice, there is one truth and I can state it.
      • games – game-play – the limits on what you can do are effectively a control structure
    • is their a relationship between traditional forms of media/traditional political outlook?
    • TLL – radical form and radical outlook

Film/media always contains contradictions

  • examples?
    • anti-war movies (maybe Apocalypse Now?) that let one vicariously enjoy war/violence
    • games, movies we’ve seen
      • Fury Road …
      • Oiligarchy …
      • Lovelock film
      • Planet Earth
  • Hageman says, “Such breaking points must not be read as signs of failures to be lamented, but as indices of the contradictions within the ideology that determines our current ability to think and represent ecology.”
  • Media makers cannot be aware of all contradictions but Hageman thinks its a strength of TLL that the director, Icíar Bollaín, really plays with contradictions

Tambien La Lluvia

  • Hybrid of documentary and feature film
  • Formal levels
    • films within film
      • set in Cochabamba, Bolivia during the water wars of 1999 to 2000
      • about a Spanish film crew making a feature film about Columbus/Spanish conquest of Latin America
      • scenes from the feature film
      • “making of” documentary footage
  • Each level can comment/reflect on the others e.g.
    • current political crisis set in frame of colonial history and treatment of indigenous people
      • juxtaposed scenes
    • material process of making a film versus political idealism of film makers
      • film showing the violent exploitation of Spanish colonialism
      • film shot in Boliva because its cheaper than the Caribbean, cheap/exploited extras
    • political correctness (anti-colonialism) of Spanish film crew set against their reactions to the political crisis
    • film presents a contradictory dilemma: Do you make your artistic and social critique – which might make changes in the future, in general awareness OR fix the situation right in front of you? Do you work in the battlefield of ideology or on the ground? (nb: scene in Levees)
    • As Robert Larosa puts it, “Our characters have come to know and appreciate [Daniel] and now they must question what really matters in life? To finish this project or to help do something for these citizens who are facing injustice?”
  • Characters act at different levels to reveal contradictions
    • Daniel is lead in the movie/leader of protesters
      • He is an indigenous hero in the Columbus film/ his role as leader of the contemporary protest gets in the way of the movie
    • Maria who is documenting the movie making is not allowed to change her focus to the “real story”
    • Costa, most capitalist of film crew (money man), ends up most moved by and helpful to plight of protesters, but only when it becomes personal
    • Sebastian, most idealistic – but puts his film before people and politics on the ground
    • Daniel’s daughter – greatest contrast between indigenous past and “equal” future
      • parallel trauma in Columbus film/trauma in water wars film
  • Strategies for involving audience in a remote issue of environmental justice
    • points made narratively and emotionally, a series of moral choices
    • juxtaposing of indigenous people then and now, brings their history closer
    • emotional stories so we care about the people and therefore their fight
  • On the other hand: Miho Kinoshito’s criticism, “Unfortunately, because this movie is mainly made by the perspectives of the film producers, I think audiences cannot fully understand the situation of native people. I wish if there were detailed descriptions how water is connected to native people’s lives and how water is important for them. For me, the way of describing native people in the film seems to be lack of understanding and respectful. Movies have power to uncover hidden facts that we have no access to, and because we are more familiar with people who exploit rather than those who are exploited, personally I wanted the film to show the water war from the native people’s point of view.”
  • Another Contradiction?
    • Does stress on personal decisions distort the story about collective action?

References:

Andrew Hageman, “Ecocinema and Ideology: Do ecocritics dream of a clockwork green?” in Ecocinema, Theory and Practice, eds. Rust, Monani, Cubitt, 2013: especially pp72-79