It’s been over 500 years since Francisco Pizarro stepped onto Peruvian land and stripped the Inca’s from their gold, but as Stephanie Boyd’s documentary film The Devil Operation (Operación Diablo) demonstrates, the conquistadors never really left, they just took on a different form.
Documenting the lives of farmers in Yanacocha, a small village in Peru rich with gold, Boyd’s film chronicles the struggles the farmers face against the giant American gold mining company, Newmont, that not only threatens their land but their way of life. In the midst of it all is Father Marcos Arana, a priest and advocate for social justice and environmental protection, and the mediating voice between the government and the farmers.
Using interviews of Father Arana and the farmers, along with Newmont’s video conferences, Boyd successfully contrasts the peaceful and passionate advocacy of the farmers with the ignorant and profit-minded thoughts of the mine company.
As the film evolves, it’s clear that the issue is more complex than the exploitation of natural resources. Concerned over the farmers’ success at stopping the mining of the land with blockades, the mining company begins an espionage operation, targeting Father Arana as the “Devil.” True to conquistador form, Father Arana and his main supporters are followed, harassed, threatened and video taped, all for the sake of stopping their efforts and solidifying the mine company’s “saving grace” philosophy.
Boyd’s ability to stray away from the typical he-said, she-said approach, gives viewers an exclusive look into Peru’s undeniably secretive mining operations. Surveillance videos confiscated by Peruvian police are used as incriminating evidence of the espionage ring, while interviews with the victims walk the audience through the horrific attacks set out against them.
Honest and at times infuriating, the film captures the farmers’ helpless efforts to stop the corruption of their beloved land, only to be faced with the greediness and violence of both the American mining company and the Peruvian government. What seems at first as a straightforward documentary ends up becoming a story of neglect, oppression and uncertainty.
Peru, 2010, 69 min.
Director: Stephanie Boyd
Spanish and English with subtitles