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Eldorado XXI
Salomé Lamas Frankrig, 2016
The soundtrack cycles through local radio stories and workers relaying their own tales of suffering, exploitation and mysterious deaths. The film’s second half doesn’t lessen the back-breaking severity of life in La Rinconada but it gives a variety of weathered and weary human faces that – as previously – transform the effect from sympathy to empathy. What initially seems as though it might be purely aesthetic formal experimentation takes on tangible emotional and political weight.
April 27, 2017
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The first half contains a bravura 57-minute shot that depicts the daily drudgery of the miner’s passage up and down the cliff face to their workplace, whilst a collage of overlaid audio generates a sense of the richness of all that surrounds this largely futile pursuit… The information absorbed through the preceding assortment of radio, conversation, and testimony from the townspeople comes to provide a more informed, emotionally resonant basis from which to receive the material that follows.
April 10, 2017
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In a film of breathtaking imagery and haunting sound, Portuguese director Salomé Lamas captures the otherworldly atmosphere of this weather-wracked outpost, as a stream of radio reports and oral stories.
December 26, 2016
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Lamas has composed the miners shot with a great deal of care. The camera is angled down, generating an ambiguous space for the viewer. Miners are moving in both directions, but it is not immediately apparent whether the men are descending into a pit or simply moving along a slightly pitched horizontal axis. The more time we spend in the company of this extended sequence, we begin to notice the miners themselves, who answer this question for us.
December 20, 2016
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Eldorado XXI, an immersive non-fiction essay bridging Werner Herzog’s postcards from the edge of human resilience and exploration and Wang Bing’s minimalist observations of struggling communities, was one of the high points of a particularly strong line-up in this year’s Berlinale Forum.
March 21, 2016
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Despite its initial rigidity, Lamas’s style continually yields surprises like a shock cut to a hip-hop dance party around a bonfire, a blink-and-you-miss-it glimpse of dogs roughhousing, or a front-row view of a boisterous marching band playing to a crowd of worshippers.
March 15, 2016
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The director and her wildly talented cinematographer, Luis Armando Arteaga, clearly understand that showing is often the most effective means of telling, and Arteaga’s eye is perhaps best on display in the film’s second half, which changes locations more readily to offer up surreal landscapes, an eerily masked celebration by firelight, and a brightly lit religious procession laden in reflective gold.
March 02, 2016
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Eldorado XXI’s two-part structure demonstrates Lamas’s interest in first hearing directly from those she documents. The extended narration of the film’s first hour contextualises the following sequences, ensuring that the voices of those that live in this habitat speak for themselves. This is essential to framing the apparent harshness of their experience on their own terms, and makes for a truly remarkable, atmospheric work whose astonishing words and images linger in the mind.
February 25, 2016
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Eldorado XXI’s post-credits long shot recalls the astonishing opening image of a trail of men trudging up a Peruvian mountain side in search of wealth in Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972). Only, in Salomé Lamas’s new documentary this image, captured by a static camera shot, is held for one hour… Dusk turns into pitch black night and the Sisyphean snake-like polonaise of worker ants turns into a vertiginous dance of helmet headlights.
February 24, 2016
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The images are to test our limits. It is almost unbearably monotonous, but that is also its power. Surely the footage is continuous, though it feels like an endless loop… In her search for truth [Lamas] has documented something far more dramatic than the landscape. It is the dramatic realisation that this looks like we might imagine the end of the world is because it is the world of today: depraved, depressed and with an uncertain humanity.
February 17, 2016
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[The second half] both over-complicates the film structurally and also represents a bit of bet-hedging, as if Lamas wanted her film to have its self-congratulatory art film difficulty and eat the trendy socio-ethnographic cake, too. Its formalism, in retrospect, feels a bit disingenuous, even elitist; why make an effort to clear the room— to alienate all but the most righteous “pure cinema” warriors before unpacking the project’s meatier social activism, its more humanizing elements?
February 16, 2016
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Taken in toto, Eldorado XXI is a palpably well-intentioned exercise in the extension of sympathy and the raising of awareness. It’s just a shame that its esthetic extremities will end up restricting its potential reach: Lamas has constructed an exquisite cinematic sermon, one likely to accumulate prizes aplenty. But at the moment it sounds very much like she’s preaching to the choir.
February 15, 2016
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