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The White Pearl: A Movie Review by meeks
June 2, 2010, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I saw the Werner Herzog quasi-documentary The White Diamond over a month a ago; yet, still, I am unsure what it was about. Regardless, the stunning naturalistic cinematography alone makes the film a worthwhile 90 minutes; which, in addition to it being one of the few films of international caliber that features my host nation of Guyana as its subject, made the film a must see for me. For a more
traditional nature documentary on Guyana, I recommend the BBC 3 part series called Land of the Jaguar. While Land of the Jaguars, sticks closely to the style Planet Earth executed so masterfully limiting itself to featuring beautiful pristine flora and fauna, The White Diamond bounds in so many directions, some fully realized others hanging, that it reaches cultural issue typically outside the scope of the traditional nature documentary.

The primary narrative driving The White Diamond is the quest of a odd, occasionally hapless, aero-engineer to launch a small blimp (The White Diamond) over the Kaiteur Falls (the largest single drop waterfall in the world) to capture steady canopy video footage supposedly of great use to science . We watch as the engineer deals with the logistical battles involved in launching the blimp as we unravel his melodramatic past – his last blimp ending up crashing killing a cinematographer in the process. Extended nature montages, and development of some locals, are also woven interstitially through the narrative. Often lasting 15-20 minutes at a time, the montages are special using a whole host of innovative camera techniques that can probably be ascribe to the uniqueness shooting from a blimp. We might follow a morning squall darting amongst the morning flocks swirling, fronting Kaieturs wall of water or rotate 360 around a rainbow colored iguana at such a closeness that I can asses its coat’s degree of dampness. These were enough for me to reconsider my aversion to visiting a waterfall; I found Niagara Falls disappointing.

Atypically, the interaction with the locals are not cut out. Initially, we watch as they watch all this madness, these crazy white people blowing up a big white balloon to fly over the falls. We also get to know some of them personally, there is the chef who dances to Michael Jackson every morning, the man who brings in equipment tougher than Rambo, and of course, the seminal character, Marc Antony, the man who names the blimp and thus the movie. He is a man who embodies everything I hoped for Guyana. He is empty, deliberate, and sure with a strong connection to his local environment. When asked if it would rain, he responds no mumbling something about the squalls being out. Later as we are following him foraging for medicinal herbs to be used as a salve for a vicious cut across his hand, he suddenly stops, priorities in perfect order, sharing with us his favorite spot around the falls. Optically contained within a raindrop hanging off some plant blade is the entire falls and a rainbow to boot. Before coming to Guyana I had hoped, probably expected, to meet a Marc Antony – someone with a strong sense of ‘ingenuousness,’ which I define as an intimate relationship with the local environment. If such a people still do exist outside of the quasi-fiction of a Herzog documentary, I cannot them. All those Rambo imitators are obscuring my view.

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