Bianca is a freelance journalist and documentary critic. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

The power of science versus the power of television in the attempt to save the pink river dolphin.

A River Below

Mark Grieco

Torus Tammer

Netherlands, 2017

A River Below is a film about an amazing and probably soon to disappear animal from the Amazon, the pink river dolphin. It is also about the power of images in our world. The exploration of these topics makes for a powerful illustration of the micro-level maze of causalities leading to environmental issues in general all over the world. And ultimately the film is an eye opener to the interconnectedness of causalities and to what makes important environmental issues so hard to solve.

Dolphins as bait

You might never get to see a pink river dolphin. This wonderful and intelligent Amazonian mammal is used as bait for a bottom feeding species called piracatinga, a fish that is popular and sells well. Its popularity encourages entire fishing communities to capture and kill the dolphin, a phenomena that is known but largely ignored.

«Despite having promised not to make the images public, the footage was broadcast to an audience of 20 million people.»

So what does it take to change things and possibly give the dolphin a chance to survive? One scientist fond of dolphins, one charismatic TV presenter, and a community of fishermen making a living fishing piracatinga – these are the characters through which this question is explored. They are very different and driven by very different incentives. The dolphin is what links them together in the film.

Love and science don’t seem to be enough to save the dolphin. Scientist Fernando Trujillo has both of these on his side. He has been conducting research for many years and he finds them the most clever, intelligent and charismatic mammals in the world. They are «people like us, but underwater», he says. For years he has been studying the dolphins and the Amazon, and for years he has been warning that children in Colombia are poisoned from eating the piracatinga because this fish for which the dolphin is slaughtered contains a lot of mercury. But instead of alarming people causing the demand for piracatinga to drop, responses only came from the threatened business sector. Trujillo started receiving death threats while the demand for the piracatinga remained untouched.

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