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Production Notes

By Sarah duPont, Producer/Co-Director

In the summer of 1999, I journeyed to the Peruvian Amazon, a remote and pristine area, the largest piece of contiguous rainforest left on the planet. There we meandered along undulating brown rivers by boat, the best way to traverse this dense and roadless place. I was traveling with an intrepid group of scientists. Our destination was the research station we had built to study and protect this critical ecosystem. I came to learn firsthand how the Amazon is one of the most important places for the stability of our environment; not only is the Amazon an untapped plethora of important species, it also houses countless trees that keep the world’s weather pattern steady.


Since that time, I have been fortunate to travel back to the jungles of the Amazon. But it has become a different place. Roads have been built and people have arrived. It has become a new wild west, a place without law. People driven by poverty and the desire for a better life have come, exploiting the sacred ground. Almost 10 years after my first trip to the once pristine Amazon, I could no longer travel the rivers without witnessing mass ecological destruction. In desperation, I gathered a team of some of the best scientists, environmentalists, and artists to document this tragedy. I wanted to create a film that is both beautiful and informative; one that I hope will affect the audience so that they too can step forward to protect the Amazon and ensure that the future climate of the world is as we know it today.


But how was I to deliver this message? How could I get people to pay attention in this chaotic time? For me, I knew that it felt like war. A war against the environment. Ecocide. Then a thought was born. Why not make a documentary that follows journalists who specialize in war reportage, filming them as they witnessed this broad, far reaching, and criminal eradication of the Amazon? This film would capture this war against nature.


RIVER OF GOLD was indeed a very difficult and dangerous film to make. As the producer I was at times very concerned for the safety of the team. We were documenting places where outsiders are never allowed. The stakes were high and we knew that filming illegal mines would not be welcomed. Moments of the shoot were thick with tension; we were skirting danger, now knowing if we would be able to complete our mission successfully and safely. But thanks to our courageous and talented crew, we came home with 26 hours of horrible, poignant, yet beautiful imagery for the world to see. We can now all witness young men standing in barrels laden with mercury, child prostitution and slavery, and the majestic trees once filled with the joyous songs of birds now turning into desolate and toxic soil all gone in the quest for gold.


And what is this destruction worth? Does the sparkling superfluous glitter of gold outshine all other necessary elements of life? This beautiful and intricate web of life that we have been given to nourish our bodies and souls is being destroyed. And for what?


Humans have the capacity for greatness and the ability to create solutions. I believe in grace. RIVER OF GOLD was made in the hope for a safe and healthy world.

 

Production Notes

By Reuben Aaronson, Producer/Co director

When you fly into the Amazon Rainforest from Peru’s capital, Lima, and begin to descend from the mountains, you pass over vast and seemingly endless oceans of jungle green. And then you see it: long gouges in the earth below, looking as if God had taken his fingernails and dragged them along the surface of the earth in some kind of angry fit, leaving behind wide canyons of nothingness.


During the whole time we were making this film, I kept asking myself is there was any real value in dedicating almost a year of my time to working on a project like this that would attempt to reveal to the world yet one more story of human greed and ignorance causing the environmental destruction that left these ugly, sad defacing marks on our planet.


Ever since I was a child, and now, for more than half my life, the price of gold has hovered at below $50 an ounce. But more recently, economic insecurities on a global level have lured people to buy the elusive shiny yellow metal as a hedge against inflation. Today the price of gold is pushing thirty times what it cost when I was growing up and the sky high prices entice migrants from Peru’s poor highlands into the region where a worker can earn in a single day what a school teacher makes in a month. Not bad work if you can get it. Never mind it might kill you. And us.


While the conditions aren’t the same as working in a classroom, you don’t have to know how to read for this job and you don’t have to pay any taxes either. When all you can think about is providing food for your family, it’s no surprise that you don’t stop to notice that you are destroying primary rainforest and poisoning the air and water in the process.


It takes around 250 tons of earth to get enough gold to make an average sized wedding ring. One ring for her and one for him equals five hundred tons of earth. On an average, 600 people are married every day in the United States. That’s a steady appetite of 300,000 tons of primary rainforest consumed every day.


On the shoot, we witnessed gaping holes the size of football fields being created in just a week. Each hole kills thousand year old trees and hundreds of species of plants and animals who used to call that tree home. It will take at least 500 years for any of this to come back.


Meanwhile, environmentalists are observing helplessly from the sidelines with their eyes popping out of their heads at the horrific amounts of devastation taking place. And local police and federal officials, many of whom are corrupt and on the take, seem overwhelmed by the situation.


It is a complicated issue. But 100% of it is manmade. And if we created it, we can also end it.

Production Notes

By Sarah duPont, Producer/Co-Director

In the summer of 1999, I journeyed to the Peruvian Amazon, a remote and pristine area, the largest piece of contiguous rainforest left on the planet. There we meandered along undulating brown rivers by boat, the best way to traverse this dense and roadless place. I was traveling with an intrepid group of scientists. Our destination was the research station we had built to study and protect this critical ecosystem. I came to learn firsthand how the Amazon is one of the most important places for the stability of our environment; not only is the Amazon an untapped plethora of important species, it also houses countless trees that keep the world’s weather pattern steady.


Since that time, I have been fortunate to travel back to the jungles of the Amazon. But it has become a different place. Roads have been built and people have arrived. It has become a new wild west, a place without law. People driven by poverty and the desire for a better life have come, exploiting the sacred ground. Almost 10 years after my first trip to the once pristine Amazon, I could no longer travel the rivers without witnessing mass ecological destruction. In desperation, I gathered a team of some of the best scientists, environmentalists, and artists to document this tragedy. I wanted to create a film that is both beautiful and informative; one that I hope will affect the audience so that they too can step forward to protect the Amazon and ensure that the future climate of the world is as we know it today.


But how was I to deliver this message? How could I get people to pay attention in this chaotic time? For me, I knew that it felt like war. A war against the environment. Ecocide. Then a thought was born. Why not make a documentary that follows journalists who specialize in war reportage, filming them as they witnessed this broad, far reaching, and criminal eradication of the Amazon? This film would capture this war against nature.


RIVER OF GOLD was indeed a very difficult and dangerous film to make. As the producer I was at times very concerned for the safety of the team. We were documenting places where outsiders are never allowed. The stakes were high and we knew that filming illegal mines would not be welcomed. Moments of the shoot were thick with tension; we were skirting danger, now knowing if we would be able to complete our mission successfully and safely. But thanks to our courageous and talented crew, we came home with 26 hours of horrible, poignant, yet beautiful imagery for the world to see. We can now all witness young men standing in barrels laden with mercury, child prostitution and slavery, and the majestic trees once filled with the joyous songs of birds now turning into desolate and toxic soil all gone in the quest for gold.


And what is this destruction worth? Does the sparkling superfluous glitter of gold outshine all other necessary elements of life? This beautiful and intricate web of life that we have been given to nourish our bodies and souls is being destroyed. And for what?


Humans have the capacity for greatness and the ability to create solutions. I believe in grace. RIVER OF GOLD was made in the hope for a safe and healthy world.

 

Production Notes

By Reuben Aaronson, Producer/Co-Director

When you fly into the Amazon Rainforest from Peru’s capital, Lima, and begin to descend from the mountains, you pass over vast and seemingly endless oceans of jungle green. And then you see it: long gouges in the earth below, looking as if God had taken his fingernails and dragged them along the surface of the earth in some kind of angry fit, leaving behind wide canyons of nothingness.


During the whole time we were making this film, I kept asking myself is there was any real value in dedicating almost a year of my time to working on a project like this that would attempt to reveal to the world yet one more story of human greed and ignorance causing the environmental destruction that left these ugly, sad defacing marks on our planet.


Ever since I was a child, and now, for more than half my life, the price of gold has hovered at below $50 an ounce. But more recently, economic insecurities on a global level have lured people to buy the elusive shiny yellow metal as a hedge against inflation. Today the price of gold is pushing thirty times what it cost when I was growing up and the sky high prices entice migrants from Peru’s poor highlands into the region where a worker can earn in a single day what a school teacher makes in a month. Not bad work if you can get it. Never mind it might kill you. And us.


While the conditions aren’t the same as working in a classroom, you don’t have to know how to read for this job and you don’t have to pay any taxes either. When all you can think about is providing food for your family, it’s no surprise that you don’t stop to notice that you are destroying primary rainforest and poisoning the air and water in the process.


It takes around 250 tons of earth to get enough gold to make an average sized wedding ring. One ring for her and one for him equals five hundred tons of earth. On an average, 600 people are married every day in the United States. That’s a steady appetite of 300,000 tons of primary rainforest consumed every day.


On the shoot, we witnessed gaping holes the size of football fields being created in just a week. Each hole kills thousand year old trees and hundreds of species of plants and animals who used to call that tree home. It will take at least 500 years for any of this to come back.


Meanwhile, environmentalists are observing helplessly from the sidelines with their eyes popping out of their heads at the horrific amounts of devastation taking place. And local police and federal officials, many of whom are corrupt and on the take, seem overwhelmed by the situation.


It is a complicated issue. But 100% of it is manmade. And if we created it, we can also end it.