“‘Look closely at the mountains!’: the phrase was coined by artist Manfredo de Souzanetto during Brazil’s years of dictatorship. Mining activities were destroying the environment in the state of Minas Gerais in the south west of the country. Through editing, Ana Vaz draws parallels between this region and the very distant Nord-Pas-de-Calais in northern France, also marked by over three centuries of mining. On one side, eroded mountains plague its inhabitants with deadly landslides. Hollow and gutted, these mountains become the receptacles of a ghostly memory. On the other side, in France, mining waste stacks become mountains and reservoirs of biodiversity, where the frontier between nature and technology is now indiscernible. The filmmaker surprises us with each shot. Poetry takes precedence over any activist or environmental discourse — as in the sequence showing scientists measuring bats in the moonlight. Here, ‘look closely’ steers the film towards details, towards visual and sound elements. Yet, these are never disconnected from the political: a shot of the sky taken from the bottom of a ravine is enough to conjure up the ghosts of eradicated indigenous peoples, whose cave nonetheless paintings continue.
Charlotte Garson, Cinéma du Réel