Yasuni explores what is at the heart of Ecuador’s pathbreaking Yasuni-ITT Initiative, which aims to protect Yasuni National Park from oil exploitation. Filled with over 846 million barrels of oil, 180,000 hectares of virgin rainforest, and one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots could be protected forever.
In March 2012, with the intent of promoting the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, award-winning filmmaker Nicolas Entel (The Sins of my Father) set up a two-ton oilrig in New York’s Madison Square Park. After the rage the installation in Manhattan causes, Entel decides to make a documentary about the Yasuni region. In Coca, the oil capital of the Amazon, Entel meets with Alex Rumi Aguinda, a member of the Añangu Community. It consists of some 150 people and it is very well organized, successfully managing two worlds: the jungle and the modern world. The Añangu’s success doesn’t mean that things are going well in the jungle, unfortunately, they are an exception. Wherever oil companies have been pumping the black gold, the outlook is considerably bleaker.
After a six-hour walk in pristine territory - there is a road for the oil trucks, but it is privately owned -, Alex and Nicolas meet with Humberto, the president of a Waorani Community. A generation ago, the Waorani used to live in the rainforest with absolutely no contact with the outside world. An illiterate people, the Waoranis were tricked into giving their lands away by signing agreements with the oil companies that they themselves could not understand. Poignantly, Humberto describes how his people are condemned to outright poverty and sometimes to death by non-natural diseases due to oil contamination.
Back in Quito, Entel meets with President Rafael Correa, who explains how his country is trying to balance between preserving the world’s most biodiverse area with its need to exploit its natural resources to fight poverty. Now that Correa announced that he wants to start drilling in Yasuni soon, a national movement is rushing to collect the huge amount of signatures necessary for a referendum to stop him. The future of perhaps the most hopeful and decisive project against global climate chaos is currently at stake.