Film Review: “Silent River”

The toll of industrial pollution on one Mexican town is among the Latin American films presented Thursday as the Environmental Film Festival continues.

Silent RiverFilmmakers Steve Fisher and Jason Jaacks provide viewers with an inside look into the heartbreaking reality of the community of El Salto, a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco, on the outskirts of Guadalajara, where illness and disease run rampant, and unnecessary deaths are commonplace. Flowing through El Salto is the Santiago River, which is no longer viewed as a river but a toxic waste canal polluted by the various U.S. industries that populate the city. Filled with more than 1,000 toxins, it is one of the most contaminated rivers in Mexico.Silent River takes a critical look at the North American Free Trade Agreement and the aftermath of its policies. The film exposes the exploitation of Mexican resources and labor, as it follows the narrator, an El Salto native named Atawalpa Sofia, and her family. They share firsthand accounts of living in an area with so much pollution and the grave toll it has taken on their community and its environment.

In less than 30 minutes, this documentary gets straight to the point. I would recommend Silent River because it effectively tells a story that needs to be told. It sheds light on the brutal reality faced by El Salto’s 24,644 inhabitants, and raises awareness about the costs that also come with big industries.

—Sarah Barrie

Interested in more environmental films about Latin America? GALA Hispanic Theater is also hosting a series of festival screenings and events on March 19 and 20.

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