Patagonia’s “BLUE HEART,” A FARM LEAGUE Original, Aims to Protect the Last Wild Rivers of Europe

August 22nd, 2018

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Patagonia’s feature documentary Blue Heart, a Farm League original directed by Britton Caillouette, became available on iTunes on August 21, 2018. 

Blue Heart chronicles the struggle to save the last remaining wild rivers of Europe from being dammed and diverted by thousands of proposed new hydropower plants. Hydropower is the only “renewable” energy source sending species to extinction, displacing people globally, and contributing to climate change, a series of threats currently aimed at the rivers and communities of The Balkan Peninsula, between Slovenia and Albania.

Patagonia launched the Blue Heart film and petition urging international banks to stop investing in the development of the more than 3,000 proposed dams and diversions which threaten to destroy the richly diverse culture, history and ecology of this region known as the Blue Heart of Europe.

To tell this all-important story, Patagonia enlisted Farm League, having previously worked with the Venice, California-based film company and filmmaker Britton Caillouette. An environmentalist with roots deep in photojournalism, Britton brings a sense of visceral realism and raw humanity to everything he touches.

The director’s background shines through in Blue Heart, as Britton expertly blends first person accounts with stark black and white footage of local activists on the front lines, contrasted with the vast breathtaking beauty of the natural world. Against the backdrop of sweeping vistas, we’re shown the environmental cost, as well as the human one, as the urgency of preserving this finite resource is driven home.

Britton was unaware of the crisis in the Balkans when Patagonia brought the project to him. What he learned was that local activists living along these rivers are fighting every day to save their homes and the rivers and lands that define them. European and local NGOs led by RiverWatch (run by German activist Ulrich Eichelmann) and Euronatur are amplifying the voice of local opposition and driving the campaign forward at the regional level, speaking out against the government corruption and foreign investment that fuels this hydropower gold rush.

With music by Andrew Bird, Blue Heart is beautifully moving in its poignancy, telling three success stories of local communities that were able to fight back. Blue Heart documents the battle for the largest undammed river in Europe, Albania’s Vjosa; the effort to save the endangered Balkan lynx in Macedonia; and the plight of the women from the village of Kruščica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who spearheaded a months-long, 24/7 protest to protect their community’s only source of drinking water, enduring physical violence from authorities to do so. These and other stories expose for the first time the gravest impending environmental disaster in Europe.

“I wanted to show that in the face of such terrible odds, there is hope,” explains Britton. “As the finale of the film, we left one story open-ended, where the vigilant and steadfast women of Fojnica were protesting day and night, taking shifts on the bridge to block trucks from passing in order to stop the construction of a dam on their river. They have since won their fight and the license for the hydropower plant was revoked.”

The film is a powerful tool for the ongoing effort to raise global awareness about this issue. On June 27, Blue Heart was screened at the EU parliament to an audience of NGOs, policymakers, and media. Additionally Patagonia has delivered a petition of more than 120,000 participants to the main financing group involved in funding these dam-building projects.

Sign the petition and act to protect Europe’s last wild rivers here.

Download on iTunes here.

The Idbar Dam, which once blocked the Bašćica River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Built in 1959, the dam cracked soon after its construction. Croatian artist Luka Tomac and friends erected the mural of a woman breaking through the dam in resistance to all of the proposed hydropower projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Burr / “Blue Heart”