“POLLUTING PARADISE”— Havoc and the Ecosystem

“POLLUTING PARADISE”

Havoc and the Ecosystem

Amos Lassen

In the mountains of Turkey sits the village of Cumburnu where a bad decision wreaks havoc on the area’s ecosystem. The protest by the citizens and the mayor have had little impact on the way the people live.

German-born Turkish writer-director Faith Akin traveled to the village that is where his paternal grandparents lived. It is near the Black Sea in northeastern Turkey. He had been there before but as he researched his family, he fell in love with the location. However, he learned that some ten years earlier, government officials had decreed a tip be installed on the site of an abandoned copper strip mine on the hill overlooking a tea plantation and, further down, the village itself. At the time Akin decided to act out of his shock and anger at the project and filmed filming in 2007 in the hopes of intimidating the officials into cancelling the project.

There had been promises of sturdy construction and the efficient treatment of wastewater but what was discovered was sloppy work on-site and questions about the design of the landfill. To the eye it looks like a large pit lined with rocks covered with plastic.

Problems began right away. Wastewater ran down into the village after passing through the tea fields and dogs and birds scavenge the pile of garbage, whose stench becomes unbearable. Led by the crusading mayor, the townspeople begin to pressure politicians and the tip staff and some confrontations become very heated.

Faith Akin is regarded as a filmmaker of determination and passion and that is what we see here all the way through “Polluting Paradise”. He wanted to make sure that he captured the human element and so he taught the town photographer how to use a digital camera and instructed him to film whenever tempers rose. The tapes were then sent to Akin and his long-time editor Andrew Bird, who edited the footage to produce this shocking documentary.

We see the frustrations of the villagers interspersed with talking head interviews with government officials that Akin himself arranged. The film is a fascinating revelation on the extent of the democratic process in the more rural areas of Turkey and a call to arms and to action for all those who believe in social justice.

The tip is still there even though the government has mentioned the possibility of moving it to another location in the near future. Even if they do, the damage to the village of Cumburnu has been done. The pollution will remain there as will this film will remain with us as a document of grass-roots advocacy.

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