Bocas del Toro, Panama is the latest paradise to catch the eye of retiring baby boomers. Beautiful beach sands in a tropical environment at cheap prices rings all kinds of bells. Corruption is rampant as corporations shove in to buy land for rich development deals. But native tribes are being kicked off their land despite legal rights. It’s a story that’s been told before. However, in this issue-oriented documentary a few determined would be heroes engage people in their plight.
One is Dario. He’s running for mayor in hopes of affecting change from the inside. He’s honest with a good smile and believes he can stop development indifferent to his hometown’s lifestyle. For example, there’s talk of building a giant marina for scores of boats despite that it would ruin fisherman’s livelihood. Corporate suits counter that its construction would employ many. But after the construction they’d be out of work and unable to fish. A smirk from one of the corporate heads almost tells the whole story.
Another possible hero is Feliciano. He’s more radical in action and a rebel rouser. He stages multiple protests that block roads and the police get called. He objects to natives being kicked off their homelands despite laws saying if they’ve lived there for twenty years then the land belongs to them. The destruction of one home speaks of the larger tragedy.
Finally, an American couple who moved to down to Panama for the tropical dream butt heads with corporations. The couple made sure to buy land that already had a title so it was properly theirs. Yet corporations still try to muscle them off and legal fees pile up. They’ve even sponsored charity auctions that benefit outlying villages and underprivileged children so they can live better. Their good intentions are crushed.
All of these struggling people engaged and involved me despite a stiff first-third and a common story of corporate imperialism. This is a good example of an issue-oriented documentary succeeding because it focuses on people and not just the issue peppered with cold facts. Numbers and policies don’t compare to the story of a well observed face. Paraiso For Sale gives a face and voice to those who might not otherwise have one.