Review: Marmato (Grieco, 2014) – Sundance 2014

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Marmato covers the fate of a small Colombian mining town when foreign investment begins to flow in and international companies start to displace the local gold miners and their centuries old small-scale mining traditions.

Director Mark Grieco was a photojournalist first, who later found himself making a movie. Therefore, it’s not surprising that much of the framing in the film has a photographic quality to it. I wasn’t sure if I would like it at first–did it feel too contrived?–but ultimately I thought it was appropriate to the film, the way it forces us look at the subjects of the documentary as individuals, as people. Because, ultimately, that’s what we usually don’t do when we think of globalization’s effects.

The documentary has a small-budget feel–no wonder, as post-production finishing funds were supplied by a Kickstarter campaign–and sometimes the storytelling is not as tight as it could be, but I wanted to and did like the film for its ambition and desire to shine a light into dark corners (paraphrased from documentary filmmaker Mads Brügger‘s description of his film The Ambassador, Sundance 2011).

The other great aspect of these very independent films is how approachable the filmmakers are. We spent twenty minutes talking with Mark Grieco after the premier of his movie, and we also heard him very generously offer his notes, contacts, and couch in Medellín to another filmmaker working in Colombia. Kudos to filmmaking on a shoestring.