April 2, 2018  (Web Review)

Samuel in the Clouds

(2016) 70 min. DVD: $99.95: public libraries; $350: colleges & universities. The Cinema Guild (www.cinemaguild.com). PPR. Closed captioned. ISBN: 0-7815-1561-0.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Pieter Van Eecke’s cinema vérité documentary takes a tragicomic-absurdist approach to the subject of climate change. The setting is Mount Chacaltaya, Bolivia, above the glittering city of La Paz, where a glaciated mountain ski complex once offered adventurers year-round downhill runs. But over the warming years the snow and ice has receded, leaving rocky, barren ground. Samuel Mendoza, the former ski-lift operator and now the sole remaining employee, strikes a Chaplinesque note as he welcomes the trickle of curio-seeking backpackers, eco-tourists, and scientists amidst the dismantled machinery of the lift. A shaman appeals to the mountain gods to bring back the snow, while the glory days when this was a popular destination are seen in intercut flashbacks. Although the offbeat Samuel in the Clouds features none of the bar charts or Powerpoint presentations seen in other global-warming warnings it easily gets its point across. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (C. Cassady)