Thursday, December 30, 2010


I just saw "Chinatown" with Jack Nicholson. It's an excellent film noir, in the best 1930s LA style. And a young Jack Nicholson doesn't look or act like a fat, old, disagreeable beast, as is his wont for the past decade or two. He's even sort of handsome.

What really struck me about the film is that the back story has to do with a rich tycoon who is pulling a land swindle. He tries to drive farmers off the land, buy up their parcels dirt cheap under false names (even names of dead people!), influence lawmakers to provide him with subsidized irrigation water, and then resell the now-precious land at a steep markup. It reminds me a lot of what's been going on in Colombia. Paramilitaries and the businessmen that fund them drive people off the land, take possession, develop big agricultural projects, and seek government aid and subsidies to further enrich themselves. I translated an excellent article some months ago on this subject, dealing with palm plantations in Colombia's Uraba and Choco regions.

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