Hot Docs 2020 (Online): Our Review of ‘Green Blood’

Hot Docs 2020 (Online): Our Review of ‘Green Blood’

Green Blood is a documentary miniseries from directors Arthur Bouvart, Jules Giraudat, and Alexis Marant that focuses on the international mining industry, as well as alleged issues of human rights, environmental concerns, criminal involvement, and governmental corruption. 

The series follows a group of journalists from a number of international outlets and publications including Forbidden Stories, Expresso, La Monde, The Guardian, The Lede, and others. One subject points out that generally journalists are in competition for scoops, and that working together to find the truth is nearly unheard of. Here, this collective collaborates to expose the seedy underbelly of the mining industry. 

The limited docuseries is centered around three specific mines: sand mines in India, gold mines in Tanzania, and nickel mines in Guatemala. 

The Indian sand mines are run by so-called “Sand Mafias”, that have been alleged to be paid up with government and police. They also may be complicit in the beating and burning alive of Indian journalist Jagendra Singh, who had been looking into the company’s ecological malfeasance and unlawful exporting. 

The nickel mines in Guatemala are seemingly polluting the waters of a nearby lake that serves as access to fresh water for the locals. It also functions as the fishing location where local fisherman catch their product. The mine has also been accused of not treating their exhaust, causing respiratory challenges for villagers nearby, as well as causing employee deaths due to negligence with respect to equipment malfunctions. When the fishermen’s union stages a protest, one of them is allegedly shot and killed by police officer. 

The gold mines in Tanzania were given land stolen from locals with zero compensation, and the villagers – with no other source of income – resorted to jumping the wall and searching for gold nuggets within the mine’s perimeter. These people were intimidated, raped, and murdered by the company’s security guards. The government offered apologies. 

Many of these mines are owned by much larger corporations (the Tanzanian gold mine’s parent company is in fact based in Canada). When confronted with allegations by these journalists, high-ranking officials respond with anything from silence to PR spin to outright hostility. It is a frustrating thing to behold, and I can only imagine how frustrated these journalists were given the impotence of their situation. 

It was also quite eye opening to learn what these products are used for in every day life, particularly when it comes to gold. I – like many, I would assume – have always thought of gold as a luxury item. Apparently however, it is a very commonly used product in Silicon Valley, being a necessary commodity in laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Again, when pressed, industry titans like HP, Apple, and Samsung shut down the reporters. 

The final episode of the series introduces a ticking clock element. This collective of journalists are counting down to the day their exposé will be published, and trying to get all their information vetted and locked in. The tension is real. Further, we watch them carefully touching up their wording in a specific way to protect themselves from accusations of libel and slander.

The ending of the series is a mixed bag. As is real life, some of the stories we’ve seen over the course of 3+ hours have inspirational and somewhat victorious endings, and some end up with a stone wall. 

This is indeed a very long series, clocking in at four episodes of approximately 50 minutes per. I do question if it needed to be quite that long. Granted, the show is covering three very different stories with their own nuances and specifics. That said, there are a number of unnecessarily long shots of subjects reflecting on their situations. I believe these were included to convey the gravity of the circumstances, but perhaps the series would be more impactful and more easily digestible if it were to eschew these moments. 

Further, the series features an array of languages including English, French, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and others. As such, there are a lot of subtitles. I did have some trouble with these. Overall it wasn’t terribly problematic, but there were sequences where the titles were onscreen so briefly that I wasn’t able to read them in time and had to scroll back. Granted, the screener that I was provided did say that the English subtitles were temporary, so hopefully this will be adjusted in future. 

Overall however, Green Blood is a fascinating series that is both eye opening and devastating. I found myself angry and yet inspired. It’s a testament to the nature of good journalism, and the search for truth.

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