UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of Hot Docs

The Devil Operation

Documentary pits Peruvian farmers against gold-mining giants

By Drew Halfnight

Directed by Stephanie Boyd
(Guarango) 
www.guarango.org/diablo


What is a mountain? For the farmers living on Mt. Quilish in the Peruvian Andes, it is the very face of the earth, with eyes that see and ears that hear. For Wayne Murdy, an executive with Newmont Mining Corp., Mt. Quilish is something else entirely.

“We want to give the maximum upside to our investors in a rising gold market,” he says at the outset of The Devil Operation, a scrappy documentary about local resistance to Yanacocha, the most profitable gold mine in Latin America.

At the heart of The Devil Operation is community leader Father Marco Antonio Arana Zegarra, a humanitarian who advances his cause in the tradition of the great Latin American priest-activists. We witness Arana playing peacemaker at a 2004 protest, imploring a general to stop his troops from firing tear gas at the crowd, and then, moments later, pleading with the townsfolk to stop throwing rocks at police. “If we don’t risk our lives to protect life,” the soft-spoken priest intones in an interview, “what sense is there in living?”

For those familiar with the business of mining in Latin America, the story arc in The Devil Operation will be familiar enough. The community speaks out against a huge open-pit mine, is ignored, organizes a peaceful protest, is suppressed by police in riot gear, takes its case to the courts and media, and wins minor compromises on some fronts as new challenges arise on others.

However, the bulk of this film’s 69 minutes is devoted to The Devil Operation, a paramilitary intelligence campaign allegedly ordered by the mining company and exposed by Peruvian newspaper La Republica. That year, 2006, Arana and other activists were subjected to harassment, surveillance, and threats of murder and rape. One farmer-activist was gunned down. The perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

Ontario-born director Stephanie Boyd’s opposition to the mine comes out loud and clear. “Their metal claws and fangs have eaten the mountains one by one,” she narrates as an excavator scrapes at the ground. 

The film’s flaws — narration and music that are too ponderous at times, a story that often wanders away from its central argument — are easily forgiven. The Devil Operation does what it sets out to do: broadcast the plight of a handful of subsistence farmers as they stand up to one of the world’s biggest gold-mining firms. 


Author's photo
Drew Halfnight is a father, journalist and high school teacher in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image