Readers of LRC recognize that Hollywood is generally statist. For example, a businessman is almost always portrayed as the bad guy in the movies. So I think it behooves me to report to you about a film that I think should be a libertarian classic called The Green Wall. I recently viewed the film for the first time, through it was produced in 1970. It was reported to be the fourth feature film made in Peru (the version I saw is in Spanish with English subtitles).
It is art because it depicts truths about the human condition. Furthermore, the film depicts these truths in a beautiful way, which goes against the grain of modern art. In fact, going against the grain is a theme of the movie.
The movie loosely describes the experiences of the director Armando Robles Godoy. The film opens with one of the most beautiful love scenes I have ever seen. As the rain is destroying their potential for economic security in the jungle, Mario and his wife Delba respond to their anxiety by making love. The mosquito netting around their bed becomes a cloud, and the troubles of the world are left behind. They are brought back to earth by the plea of their son Romulo for a drink of water.
As told through flashbacks, Mario became disenchanted with life in Lima while many of his countrymen are moving to the city. He decided to take advantage of a government program for homesteading in the jungle. Despite the fears of Delba, and the protests of family and friends, he moves his family to the house he has built in the jungle.
A major theme of Latin American literature is the battle against nature. In this case the jungle, the eponymous Green Wall, certainly is a difficult host to the family. But it is also beautiful and fertile. At times a Bach air is played to evoke a sense of tranquil beauty when jungles scenes are shown.
However, the greatest danger, the greatest obstacle, to the family's well being is the government bureaucracy that is supposed to help the settlers. During a Kafkaesque series of frustrations, Mario attempted to gain title to his land. The individual bureaucrats recognized his heroism (he could be described as a Randian hero, he tells the clerk he wants "to produce"), even if they also believed it was tragic and misplaced. Thus they did try to help him on occasion. As he finally learns that the proper form has been signed and he owns the property another group of government workers make a boundary through Mario's land, purposely destroying his coffee plants. This is in spite of the fact that he had previously informed the bureaucracy of the error in placing the boundary through his claim.
The waste, hypocrisy, and harm that the government causes the people are illustrated by way of the subplot of a presidential tour of the district. The presidential motorcade wound its way like a serpent toward the town closest to Mario's house. It bodes danger, like the snake that is also shown moving through the jungle grass towards the home. Among the examples are that the road is only repaired for the president, and will not be maintained after he leaves. The presidential entourage visits the local agriculture station. The staff proudly displays a large palm fruit for the president. In a side comment we learn that they have spent 20 years working on this project. Furthermore, farmers like Mario do not even grow palm fruit, thus they believe it is not profitable to produce. In the end, this tour hinders the family in an emergency causing tragic results.
The film reinforced my observations from a recent visit to South America; the gist being the misfortune of good, intelligent people who are checked in their economic advancement because of government.
May 17, 2005