August 25, 2006

Pocahontas vs. petrochemicals

3rd Degree:  Q’orianka KilcherIn Terrence Malick’s 2005 film, The New World, a young Q’orianka Kilcher plays Pocahontas, guiding Colin Farrell’s John Smith toward an understanding of the American wilderness and its indigenous inhabitants. If only she can do the same for an oil-hungry world. Sixteen-year-old Kilcher, whose father is of the Quechua-Huachipaeri people in Peru, recently traveled deep into the Amazonian rainforest in Peru to survey the plight of indigenous Amazonians affected by oil exploration. Already a fairly experienced activist, the trip was an attempt by Kilcher to use her time in the spotlight--new as it may be--to illuminate an environmental and human rights disaster.

Traveling up the Rio Corrientes by boat, she found a toxic legacy left behind by … Angelenos. Up until recently, the oil tracts she visited were being developed by Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum. And it wasn’t pretty. She found indigenous children playing in crude oil, drinking and fishing waters fouled with poisonous heavy metals, and ancestral land preserves invaded by multinational corporations with the blessings of the Peruvian government. Film crew in tow, Kilcher is making a documentary through her new production company, and recently presented her findings at the United Nations.

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