Thoughts About the Movie “Patagonia Rising”

22 08 2012

It wasn’t intentional on my part, but somehow I found the movie that Windfall was trying to be.

In short, what Patagonia Rising is supposed to be about is an overview of a controversial plan to build dams in the Patagonia region of Chile. That’s not quite what the finished product becomes, but I’ll hold my thoughts for after the jump.

Spoilers follow.

The plots are similar: Energy needs to come from somewhere, the chosen location is idyllic and wonderful (Patagonia arguably more so than Meredith NY, not to spark geographical rivalries), and the locals aren’t having any of the plan to install (pick one) wind turbines/hydroelectric dams on their idyllic landscape.

That’s about where the similarities end. Windfall clearly had an axe to grind, whereas Patagonia Rising is rooted more in the overall preservation of a geographical area, against all invaders. And herein lies the problem with this movie.

The Good:

Stunning views of Patagonia, of course.

The movie did a good job of explaining what Chile’s options are for home-grown energy, be they “green” options or otherwise. Emphasis is placed on “green” but “not green” is hinted at, namely coal.

Unlike Windfall an eeeevil spokesperson for the eeeevil company that wants to build the eeeevil dams gets a fair amount of face time. Agree or disagree with his talking points, but at least he was available to provide them on camera and provide a face for the bad guys. And they get “special thanks” at the end, which was classy.

The Bad:

The movie, simply put, lacks a concrete message. Are we supposed to oppose the dams, making all well in Chile? Or are we supposed to feel an affinity for – in this case – Patagonia and hope that nothing ever spoils the scenery? Unfortunately in the final 30 minutes nature intervenes and floods the place, which on the one hand is presented as a strike against the dams as it is unclear if the dams could handle the flooding issues, but on the other seems to show that Patagonia is doomed anyway, dams or not. It might have been better to say “Patagonia is under siege from proposed dams, glacial melt, and [insert other reasons here].”

The Ugly:

Nothing particularly galling other than a sheep getting slaughtered (not graphically but point taken), and as a critical review elsewhere online pointed out, the presumed “good guys” never really stake their legal claim on the land, they apparently just live there and may not have much legal standing to argue against displacement. I can’t confirm or deny this as some interviewees do speak of being offered money to sell their land.

My $0.02:

Once more, I will harp on my stock line that any power source that relies on a distributed model to function optimally is going to not only rely on way more of that power source to meet expected demand, but will also rely on transmission lines and the like that come with their own inherent challenges. There is a section of the movie devoted to plugging “green” alternatives to hydroelectric (which on the scale of things strikes me as greener than coal, natural gas, or nuclear power) such as wind and solar. The irony was not lost on me that wind turbines in Chile were being sold as a great benefit as opposed to the wanton death and destruction they wreak upon such places as Tug Hill, NY. Massive solar arrays were another suggestion, but here’s the kicker: They would be installed in a desert and rely on, what, people? That’s right, transmission lines. The same eeeevil transmission lines that apparently would be the very death of Patagonia but somehow would have no measurable impact on the rest of the country if sited elsewhere.

I was curious to read the “special thanks” portion of the credits and found the pro-Patagonia forces a bit less opaque than the anti-wind crowd thanked in Windfall. We might not intuitively know who is funding or running Better Plan Wisconsin but can figure out a little something about who is behind the Clif Bar Family Foundation.

Anyway, I rated it 3/5 stars only because Netflix doesn’t do half-stars. 2.5 actual stars is a more realistic rating. Not a horrible movie, but a bit too scatter-brained.

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