For a jaded broke millennial like myself, the idea of obtaining gold in whatever form is an irrelevant fantasy, best reserved for James Bond movies or high-octane heist thrillers. But if you’re someone who waltzes into the jewellery store to figure out how to add some bling to your life, the new documentary The Shadow of Gold has a message for you – stop. Just don’t do it. Or if you do, you better make damn sure you know where that gold came from.
It’s no big revelation that a good deal of gold has historically been procured from the blood and exploitation of less privileged people and places. The Shadow of Gold, a Canada-France co-production from veteran documentarians Denis Delestrac, Robert Lang and Sally Blake, rubs your nose right in the muck of the gold-mining industry, making sure to shine a light on every inherent problem.
From grossly underpaid workers mining in dangerous conditions to the influx of criminal organizations in the industry to the staggering environmental hazards tied to the favourably cheap ways of extracting gold from the ground, it all just makes you wonder who even needs this stuff anyway. The answer to that question is, of course, that rich people do. In the end, it’s really all just tied in to the monstrous capitalist system that we’re mired in, using the people who have nothing to produce material goods that really shouldn’t have any meaning.
While the film is a decent-enough call to action, it doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table that the average semi-informed person wouldn’t already know. At a brisk running time of 78 minutes, it also shuttles through each new segment with blistering speed, never really lingering on anything long enough for it to really settle in. Apparently, there’s a longer version of the film that will premiere on TVO in March (and with Colm Feore narrating to boot), which I assume might flesh some of these stories out, so the decision to slap together this truncated version, filled with haphazard text information in place of voice-over, is a little strange.
Nevertheless, the human stories resonate; such as the miner in an impoverished area of China who works for pennies a day to support his family but now has to deal with a life-threatening lung condition caused by the rampant dust inhalation. Closer to home, the filmmakers take a look at the horrific 2014 Mount Polley disaster in British Columbia, which saw years worth of mining waste get expelled into Polley Lake, drastically affecting the surrounding communities and Indigenous population from the region.
Where big business thrives, nothing else does.
- Release Date: 2/22/2019