ELDORADO XXI (2016)
HD video, 2:39 color, Dolby 5.1 sound, 125 min., Portugal / France / Peru
Production: O Som e a Fúria, Shellac Sud, Tambo Films
Development awards: FIDLab 2013 FID Marseille – Le prix Sublimage, Le prix Vidéo de Poche
Development support: DocStation 2014 Berlinale, Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Yaddo, Bogliasco Foundation, Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD, Critical Media Practice Workshop –Harvard University
Support: Instituto do Cinema e Audiovisual – ICA, Centre National du Cinéma – CNC, EURIMAGES – Council of Europe
Distribution: O Som e a Furia, Shellac Sud, RTP TVCine, MUBI, Filmin
Non-Commercial Rights: Pontifica Univercidad Catolica del Peru
Non-Commercial Rights: Akademie der Bildenden Kunste Wien
Theatrical Release: Portugal
Eldorado XXI is a haunting and mysterious ethnographic reality cut-up. Set in the Peruvian Andes at La Rinconada y Cerro Lunar, the highest settlement in the world at 5,500 meters, it depicts an illusion that leads men to self-destruction, moved by the same interests, dealt with the same tools and means, in contemporaneity as it has been dealt in the ancient times.
Eldorado XXI is a parafictional attempt to combine a sensory ethnographic approach with critical media practices. Some eighty thousand people live in crowded dwellings in La Rinconada y Cerro Lunar, without even the minimum for subsistence farming; they foster the hope that one day they will find the means to resettle elsewhere. There are enough stories of fortunes made randomly to keep hope and the fever alive. As a measure of safety, the miners chew large quantities of coca leaves. They carry the leaves in their pockets daily to deceive hunger and prevent exhaustion. If they live to work again the next day, it is common to celebrate with alcohol and to frequent the local brothels. This becomes a quick road to self-destruction, the only motivation behind it being to soften the harshness of everyday life. Under the system of cachorreo, the miner works for 30 days without remuneration and on the thirty-first day (if lucky) he is allowed to explore the mine for four hours for his own profit.
The little precious metal he might carry down the mountain has now to be separated from the rock through antiquated methods using highly toxic levels of mercury. Then the value of the gold powder has to be negotiated in a non-regulated establishment within the community, and the miner will be offered the minimum amount possible. The system is an unpredictable lottery; nevertheless cachorreo means that miners and employers avoid 'certain taxes.' It is a mental game, in which the possibility of generating a small fortune motivates the miners. To believe in and aspire to 'some- thing bigger' can be a greater motivation than a miserable pay-check at the end of the month; a constant low wage would simply not be worth a life of danger. La Rinconada and Cerro Lunar are doomed towns, which will very shortly become ghost towns since the mines are running low on precious metal.
You are alone. You hear nothing, you know nothing, and you expect nothing. This is a mysterious film dwelling on the complexity of the human being. It stimulates the viewer to reflect and contemplate, constantly seeking an active audience. It will carry you on a hallucinatory journey. You will not be indifferent to it.