On 13 August [today] a new documentary, Voices on the Road, will launch online worldwide, following a year of screenings at international film festivals such as Tampere Film Festival.
The 23-minute documentary follows the building of a road that is quietly destroying a protected rainforest deep in the remote Peruvian Amazon, causing conflict, fear and large-scale deforestation.
The road is cutting through a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Manu Biosphere Reserve in the jungle of south-eastern Peru. Scientists predict the road will cause over 40,000 hectares of deforestation by 2040, an area equivalent to the combined size of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The road is destroying biodiversity and contributing to climate breakdown, it will increase land grabbing and the erosion of indigenous culture, and has links to illegal gold mining, cocaine trafficking and modern day slavery.
Yet for the indigenous Yine people from Diamante Native Community the road brings hope – the promise of a better life.
“People here are human beings that need to live,” said primary school teacher Myriam Lupaca Medina. “Human beings that need a quality of life. And that is what we ask for. A quality of life.”
For years, the community have been tirelessly campaigning for the road to be built, despite the dangers it brings. Politicians are promising Diamante that the road will create jobs and improve livelihoods, that it will bring better education and healthcare. But will they keep their word and is there a plan to protect the community from cocaine traffickers and illegal loggers? The Yine people are prepared to risk it all. The stakes are high, both for them and this globally important forest.
Edgar Morales Gomez, district mayor of Diamante explains, “…in the lungs of the world, there are people dying of hunger. But we are conserving 100% of the forest. Why must we die of hunger? Only by having a road can we change our lives.”
The all-female filming team behind the documentary spent 40 days visiting and living with indigenous communities in the remote jungle. They carried out over 50 interviews and recorded intimate personal stories as native communities struggled to protect their land and culture, feeling ignored and forgotten by the state. They uncovered stories of corruption, exploitation and a thriving black market economy.
The Peruvian government has declared the building of roads in this Amazon region a ‘national priority’ and is investing millions into road construction and improvements. Manu is on the edge of changing forever – will its diverse natural and cultural heritage survive?
Media release submitted by Voices on the Road. All images provided.
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