Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Máxima’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Máxima’

Director Claudia Sparrow considers Máxima to be her life’s work. The film tells the story of Máxima Acuña, a Peruvian subsistence farmer and her years-long legal battle with the Newmont Mining Corporation.

Máxima lives with her husband Jaime in a grass-and-earth hut on a 27 hectare plot of land in the rural mountains of Peru, outside the city of Cajamarca. When the nearby Yanacocha gold mine (Newmont being a majority owner) chooses to expand its mining territory, they decide that Máxima’s land belongs to them, despite her having the documentation proving that she owns the plot.

What follows is years of governmental corruption, harassment from police (said to be on the Newmont payroll), violent intimidation, trespassing, and the regular destruction of Máxima’s crops in an effort to force her family’s starvation.

Sparrow makes a point in her film not just to play up the injustice of the situation, but to also highlight Máxima’s goals. It is not simply about retaining her own land. It is an ecological struggle. The new mine would destroy the gorgeous mountainous landscapes, but would also poison the local lake (which provides fresh water to locals, and is also diverted to Cajamarca) with cyanide.

This is a very powerful film. Not only does it hone in on the corruption that helps big businesses thrive, it focuses on the indelible human spirit. Máxima Acuña leads a simple life. She manages to grow enough food to keep her family alive, she cannot read, and she’s a fish out of water in the big cities of Cajamarca, Lima, and Washington, D.C. Her character and unwavering tenacity is something to behold, something to be cherished. This is further demonstrated as we see the people of Peru, human rights activists, lawyers, et al, rallying to her cause.

  • Release Date: 4/27/2019
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