SWITCH OFF (Manel Mayol). 87 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (July 7) at the Carlton. For times, see page 106. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Switch Off recounts the all too familiar tragedy of a greedy multinational raping the land and exploiting its indigenous people. Too bad the film's not more artfully constructed.
In the late 1990s, Spanish/Latin American hydroelectric company Endesa forced the Pehuenche-Mapuche people living along the Biobío River out of their homes to build a power station. Because of Chilean law, the corp had to offer up an alternative living solution. So after flooding the land, it coerced the 70-odd families to relocate in the mountains, where they lived in poverty and - terrible irony - without electricity for several years.
This should be infuriating, blood-boiling stuff. There's lots of potential for human interest in those dislocated families. You've got government corruption and greed. There's also the powerful metaphor of the Biobío River itself, which acted as a frontier for the indigenous people during the Spanish occupation.
Director Manel Mayol captures the majestic river in some stunning shots, but imparts information through a succession of tedious heads who yammer on about laws, rules and regulations. There's no focus, no point of view and no momentum.
Mayol's repeated phone calls to try to get through to the Endesa boss form a running gag that feels trivial and is way too obvious a tactic.
Surely, the victims deserve not only justice but a better filmic presentation of their plight?