Mark Grieco

Debuting his first feature-length film, Mark Grieco is an independent filmmaker and photojournalist interested in human rights and justice in the global economy. 

What it's about: "A 500 year-old gold mining town in rural Colombia confronts a Canadian mining company that wants the $20 billion in gold beneath their homes."

What it's really about: "It’s an intimate portrait of the locals trying to navigate a very complex situation concerning the future of their town and their lives. The Canadian mining company wants to build a large-scale open-pit mine where the town sits and would need to relocate the entire population. Filmed over the course of nearly 6 years, the film bears witness to multiple perspectives, including that of representatives of the Canadian company, on what 'progress' is, who will benefit, and who won’t. It’s a chronicle of the beginning stages of a takeover and how one town ultimately resists change."

Biggest challenge: "I lived and filmed alone in the town of Marmato for nearly 5½ years. Working this way afforded me access to places that even a small crew could never get. But it’s also the most risky way to do something like this in Colombia. Beyond the risks of filming in the mines and the subject matter, the biggest challenge was to get the trust of the locals and be allowed into their lives enough to give them the intimacy and honesty they deserve in the film."

Any films inspire you? "In the documentary world I’m a huge fan of Herzog and James Longley. One film that really opened my eyes to the possibilities in documentary was 'Cannibal Tours' by Dennis O’Rourke." 

Cameras used: "I bought a Canon XH A1 in 2007 before moving to Colombia to begin production. This camera has survived the intense heat and humidity of the mines, aerial shots strapped to steel cables hundreds of feet off the ground, and falls down the mountain."

Did you crowdfund? "Yes, we successfully raised close to 50K on Kickstarter."

Hopes for Sundance audience take-away: "My hope is that audiences will connect with each character in the film regardless of where they stand on the issue, that they imagine themselves in this complex situation and how they would rationalize their own choices. But I also hope audiences will have a truly cinematic experience – a reflection of how I see the picturesque nature of the mines, the town, the landscape and people of Colombia."

What's next? "I’m working on a script for a road trip film in South America. Also developing a feature-length documentary on cultural geography spanning two continents and three indigenous chiefs."

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. For profiles go HERE.