When I heard the title of this film, I thought it might be another superhero epic. And I was right, though not the way I expected. The superhero here is a tiny little indigenous farmer from Peru named Maxima Acuna Atalaya Chaupe whose fight against an enormous transnational corporation inspired environmentalists and human rights supporters around the world. This powerful documentary follows tiny Maxima through her arduous journey, taking her from her remote mountaintop to courtrooms in Lima and Washington. And she’s an inspiration.
Maxima saved up enough money to buy some pristine land in the Peruvian highlands so she and her family could run a farm. Unfortunately, one of the biggest gold mining concerns in the world decided that they wanted to expand and her land was part of their plan. And they’d do anything to get it, mostly illegal and often violent. But they underestimated the opposition.
From the beginning of their takeover, the gold mine, part of the US-based Newmont Mining Corporation, in collusion with the state police began an escalating campaign of intimidation and harassment. Initially, they simply said it was not her land, despite her having a deed that said otherwise. They came in armed and killed her dog. They destroyed her crops. They destroyed her house. They beat her and her family. And they sued her. But she was not going to leave and decided to fight them. A lawyer in Lima who was an expert in human rights and environmental law heard about her and agreed to represent her. And together they took on the giant and built a movement around her case.
It’s not the first time that a big, rich, polluting corporation has tried to strong-arm a little illiterate farmer, but Maxima was a mighty foe. And for a woman who can not read, she’s amazingly articulate. Particularly when she speaks about the environment and the water that Newmont would pollute forever.
There are times in the film that you fear for Maxima’s life. And there are times you’re cheering her strength. Maxima is a powerful film about an amazing women. It mixes an environmental justice tale with a human rights story and binds it all together with a very personal and engaging character’s odyssey. Her story is ongoing. She won a few key cases again Newmont, but they’re still harassing her and even her lawyer has distanced herself from the case. It’s definitely a hero story worth seeing. #GirlPower
Opening Theatrically & On-Demand January 11th, 2022. And to follow her story and the campaign check out StandWithMaxima.com