Chilean film wins Ramsar / MedWet Award for 2005


'Veil of Berta' crowned winner of Ramsar/MedWet Award at ecofilms 05, international film festival, Rhodes 21-26 June 2005

The Chilean documentary 'Veil of Berta', by Esteban Larrain, was crowned on Saturday 25 June as the Ramsar/MedWet best film for water and wetlands for 2005, at the ecofilms international film and audiovisual arts festival, Rhodes, 21-26 June 2005.

Set in a high altitude river basin in the south of Chile, the film highlights the struggle of a community of native Pehuenche villagers against the building of a dam that will change the flow of the Bio-Bio river and flood the lands where they have lived for centuries

The 'Veil of Berta' unfolds the story of the leader of this Pehuence community, Berta Quintremán, who at the age of 86 leads the last group opposing the construction of the dam. A woman with a strong personality and a unique blend of humor and energy, Berta lives alone on her small piece of land, and observes all the traditions of her people. On a daily basis, she greets the trees and the sun, takes mate (a typical herbal tea) with her dead and says her prayers. But at the same time she negotiates with the government as well as the dam construction company, manages to halt the machinery, and works together with other families to prevent the flooding of their land.

In his movie, Esteban Larrain captures, with an exceptional sensitivity, the outstanding personality of Berta Quintreman and the striking dimension of her fight. Through a combination of narrative and strong imagery of water landscapes, the film works in a number of ways to stimulate and inspire reflection on the need to use water and wetland resources wisely.

The delicate narrative told at a natural pace of daily life of Berta and of the Pehuence community fosters an understanding of the intimacy of the bonds between the native community and its environment. Evocative photography of water landscapes reinforces a sense of the cultural importance and values attributed by the native group to the river Bio-Bio that runs through the lands and history of the Pehuence people. Moreover the dignity of the confrontations of Berta Quintremán with those favoring the flooding of the native lands generates respect for the struggle of native stakeholders to participate in the management of their natural water resources.

The Ramsar/MedWet Award touches a chord with Larrain

News of winning the Ramsar/MedWet Award helped dissipate independent documentary filmmaker Larrain's 'doubts wondering', as Larrain put it 'whether it is all worth it'. Awarded on a warm summer night in the Mediterranean island of Rhodes but wintery morning in Chile, the Award raised the spirits of the director of 'Berta's Veil' helping, in Larrain's words, in 'getting you going a little further'.

The golden deer statuette of ecofilms was presented by Ramsar Secretary General Mr Peter Bridgewater in a full house venue, hosted in the National Film Theater of Rhodes on Saturday 25 June. Members of the international MedWet Ramsar award jury were Sebastià Semene Guitart, Ramsar's Convention Development officer, Mario Cenni of the Agenzia Regionale della Protezione Ambientale di Toscana, member organisation of the MedWet Team, and Petr Lom, documentary film maker.

Established in 2004, the Ramsar/MedWet Award was inaugurated in Ecocinema 2004, an international environmental film Festival held in Rhodes, Greece. The first winner of the Ramsar/MedWet Award, 'Aamakaar Turtle People' by Surabhi Sharma, is the account of a community striving to protect the nesting grounds of turtles while sand-mining threatens to wash away the coast on which their village stands.

You can read more on ecofilms or about this movie at

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