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Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Banking on Disaster

  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $450.00
  • Date: Copyright 1988. Released 1988.
  • Descriptors: Rain forests. Ecology. Brazil. Environmental policy.
  • Production Information: Live action. Produced by Adrian Cowell. Sponsored by Central TV. Color. Includes Study guide. 78 min.
  • Production Company: Ludgate Co.
  • Available from: Bullfrog Films Oley, PA 19547 (800) 543-FROG
  • Cataloging: 333.75137 Deforestation - Amazon River Region - Economic aspects||Environmental policy
  • Awards: National Educational Film & Video Festival Crystal Apple award, 1989.
  • Print Entry #: 1:34
  • Reviewer: Andrew A. Aros

    With many individuals interested in ecology, this program should have widespread appeal. It deals with the destruction of a region in the Amazon jungle in Brazil when the government decided to build a two-lane road through the Amazon forest, displacing the native Indians of the area. But even more amazing was the plan to destroy much of the forest itself - tens of thousands of acres were set aflame to clear the land for new settlements.

    Overnight, thousands of homeless and impoverished individuals were given acreage along the proposed road. They began to tend their free land with hope; but within a few years, most had abandoned the barren farms that could not grow anything due to the earlier ruthless pillage of the area.

    CinÇma veritÇ style is used to interview many of the principals involved - government officials, farmers, anthropologists, and executives of the World Bank. As many of the interviewees do not speak English, subtitles are used. For once, the subtitles are clear and legible. The producers deserve an accolade for not obscuring the dialogue.

    The people affected by the destruction of this region tell the story. A poor farmer's frustration at not being able to grow anything, thereby making a better life for himself and his family, is traced over a seven-year period. There is nothing but despair in his voice and attitude. His family is frightened when the Indians who come out of the jungle at night attack and kill their dog.

    A political activist from the rubber growers' union is tracked also, as he develops from a naive optimist into a cynical political realist. He runs for office, wins more votes than any of the other candidates, yet due to political machinations is not elected. Scenes of vote buying are recorded, with the candidate refusing to pay for votes.

    In the interviews, the speakers are identified via labels. The label indicates the person's name and affiliation or employer. Because so many individuals are used in the documentary, this particular device works well.

    The producers cast blame at many institutions - the Brazilian government, civic planners, land speculators, and most importantly at the World Bank and other quasi-governmental agencies funding the destruction of the tropical forest.

    The pacing of the film is well organized, replete with interviews, some documentary/newsreel type footage, etc. The script and narration are very informative and provide an exposÇ of the best kind - responsible journalism.

    The photography is very good, although at times the color balance is less than ideal. The music has been well selected, with a good mix of popular as well as the traditional documentary-style elevator music.

    On the whole, the film-to-tape transfer works well, with the exception of the color balance problem already mentioned. It belongs in large collections where ecological concerns are of interest. While the price might cause some institutions problems, the title is well worth it. Recommended.

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