Review: Corrupt capitalism meets violent protest in the urgent documentary ‘When Two Worlds Collide’

Peru's indigenous Amazonian people protest to save their rainforest land in the documentary "When Two Worlds Collide."
Peru’s indigenous Amazonian people protest to save their rainforest land in the documentary “When Two Worlds Collide.”
(Jack Weisman / Yachaywasi Films)

The documentary “When Two Worlds Collide,” about Peru’s internal strife between government leaders and indigenous peoples working to protect the Amazon from then-President Alan Garcia’s economic policies, has been a project of filmmakers Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel since 2007. But because of an especially contentious extraction decree that allowed foreign businesses to plumb indigenous lands, and the fatal clash between native protesters and militarized police in 2009 that galvanized the country, their film turned into a jolting, investigative look at political deterioration.

When effectively organized nuisance-making — taking over an oil company’s pipeline, cutting off truck supplies — is supplanted by killing, it’s a license to demonize the opposition instead of extend a dialogue. And at its best, the movie makes that thorniness real, and depressing. But you also sense how much the directors might have preferred to make a purely advocacy-minded picture about unscrupulous capitalism, and a clean portrait of indigenous opposition leader Alberto Pizango, who became a wanted man for leading nationwide protests, fled the country, then returned to stand trial.

Ultimately, “When Two Worlds Collide” has a breathless urgency to it, even if its structuring of events feels a bit ramshackle, and the directness of its environmental warnings feel no different than a thousand other message docs. But that title is wholly accurate: this movie is about a fight, one that won’t end any time soon.



‘When Two Worlds Collide’

In Spanish with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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