Germany, Switzerland


Jairo Fuentes is the young leader of the community of Tamaquito, a village in the forests of northern Colombia. Here, nature provides the people with everything they need to survive. For centuries, they’ve hunted in the mountains, foraged for fruit and reared hens, sheep and cattle.
But the Wayúu community’s way of life is being destroyed by the El Cerrejón coal mine. This vast chasm extends for 700 square kilometres, making it the world’s largest open-cast coal mine. Every day, the pit gets deeper, gnawing away at the previously unspoilt landscape. The coal is exported all over the world. In Germany, the UK and Israel, in the Netherlands, Turkey, Japan and the USA, coal from El Cerrejón feeds the power stations which generate the electricity to keep our lives fast-paced, bright and warm.
Determined to save his community from the forced displacement which has already swept away other villages, Jairo Fuentes sets out to negotiate with the mine’s operators. They’re backed by powerful commodity companies such as Glencore, Anglo American and BHP Billiton. The companies promise the villagers the blessings of progress, but the Wayúu place no value on modern, electrified houses – on the so-called “better life”.
Instead, they embark on a fight to save their life in the forest, which soon becomes a fight to survive.

Director's Statement

Do we depend on growth? I came across the concept of „el buen vivir“, the philosophy of the native indigenous people living along the Andes in South America. I studied it with great interest. It contains all (and a lot more) of what we call „sustainability“.
The German „Energiewende“ caused a significant increase of steam coal imports to Germany; in fact, almost all industrialised countries have increased their coal imports. Countries like Germany, Great Britain or the U.S. are shutting down their costly coal mining industry and instead import cheap coal from abroad. Mining companies such as Glencore plc, BHP Billiton or Anglo American exploit the natural resources. Colombia produces high quality steam coal at a very low price, thus it became one of the largest exporters of coal.
What happens to the native Colombians, in this case the Wayuu people, who have been living on the ground above the coal for centuries? It's a disturbing story of neo-colonialism at its best. The Wayuus are forced to move and give up their way of life and have no other choice but to live by the rules of the so-called modern civilisation. It’s their „good life“ against ours, an unequal competition full of madness. In the end, mankind suffers an outrageous defeat.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Jens Schanze

Written by: Jens Schanze

Produced by: Jens Schanze, Frank Matter

Cinematography: Börres Weiffenbach

Editing: Bernd Euscher

Original Score: Victor Moser, Rainer Bartesch

Sound Design: Carlos Ibañez, Marc Parisotto, Daniel Dietenberger

Cast: Jairo Fuentes Epiayu

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2015