Dir. Ernesto Cabellos | Peru | 2015 | 87 mins
"Water is the blood of the Earth,” incants Nélida Ayay Chilón, a Peruvian native, who following ancient Cajamarcan custom, worships the life-bearing Mother Water present in all lakes and rivers. She considers herself a Daughter of these lakes that have provided refreshment and sanitation to the members of her village for millennia. Lying just beneath these lakes however is Yanacocha, Latin America’s largest gold deposit, whose financial value is in the billions. The lake, representing the spiritual bond between landscape and life-force is priceless to its locals but now the target of several global mining companies - a sacred site at risk of being plundered for profit. Nélida fights for the lake as she would her family, joining her fellow villagers in committed demonstration.
In a dystopian vision of what augurs for Nélida and her village, we are also transported to Bolivia where we see a similar situation, further advanced, in which multinational prospectors have sadly won. Director Ernesto Cabellos follows a group of female miners who endure backbreaking labour during the day only to return home to live on parched, depleted land. Finally, we meet Dutch jeweler Bibi van der Velden who believes her creations are personalised works of art, precious beyond mere monetary value. When she must travel to Peru, van der Velden is forced to confront the human and environmental toll of the mining that makes her art possible.
Told in an interweaving triptych of stories that follows three different groups of women impacted differently by the effects of mining, Daughter of the Lake is a deftly balanced evocation of the spiritual and the political. Beautifully constructed by Cabellos; meditative shots of the breathtaking Andes are imbued with the land’s mystical significance while compelling archival footage of protests and rallies document the depths of destruction wrought upon Indigenous peoples over the years. Daughter of the Lake is one of the must-see films at this year’s festival.