Daughter of the Lake (2015), dir. Ernesto Cabellos


Screening at the Norwich Radical Film Festival

I slept four hours last night. I dragged myself awake, somehow managed to step foot in the shower, and am being fuelled by a horrific mess of tea and coffee and a bowl of cereal. I stayed up late last night to write up my review of Johnny Got His Gun (1971). Now, Timothy Bottoms is sitting in the row behind me. I see a sign in the corner: “no food or drink”. I finish my coffee in a couple of gulps.

Daughter of the Lake is a surprise. Whilst there are some minor technical issues that betray the film as somewhat amateur, these minor issues can be forgiven for the strength of the subject covered. Rather than approach the issue of gold mining from the perspective of corporations and miners (as was the case with VICE’s documentary on the subject in Colombia), it instead looks at the effect on traditional communities. In long shots, we see how truly beautiful the topography of the mountains is, something so unimaginable except in Peru. The water holds a spiritual quality, as we hear in Nélida’s opening and closing monologues. It is at these points the film is at its most cinematic, but it still comes from an authentic place.

We’re introduced to a fashion designer from Amsterdam, as we see tribal topless models walk down the catwalk. She believes in sourcing gold ethically – but do the locals appreciate her efforts? Another conflict we see is between tradition and modernity. Nélida doesn’t want to betray her past; she wants to live a simple life on the farm, yet she is training to be a lawyer in a city of concrete slabs she feels disgusted by. These oppositions give the film a level of nuance.

As the eponymous daughter stands by the lake, my bladder starts to question the nature of water. The coffee has caught up with me. I tell myself: this must be the end. The scene cuts to police officers swarming out at the peaceful protesters, reminiscent of the chaos in Mexico in Cartel Land (2015). I grab tight on my genitals, hoping that doesn’t look totally weird to Timothy Bottoms right behind me. The scene cuts once again to the daughter, and I want this to be over.

It’s over. I rush to the bathroom. I’m glad it’s on this floor.

When I return to the room, everything has descended into a state of chaos. Peruvians argue about the state of their country. A priest speaks about his own experience of discrimination in South Africa, at first making an impassioned plea for every school and every church to show the film, all valid points, before he descends into a rambling mess straight out of the “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” speech in Network (1976). Obama should be doing more to tackle sex work in LA; the monarchy should be abolished; we need to solve the migrant crisis. He speaks fondly of his wife who passed, and how he used to fuck her every day of the week.

The moderator is taken aback. The audience goes into applause. The Q&A is over.


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