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Film of the Week: Troublesome beauty spot

MARIA DUARTE recommends a thought-provoking documentary about developing tourism and exploiting nature in socialist Vietnam

A Crack in the Mountain (12A) 
Directed by Alastair Evans 


DESCRIBED by many as the eighth wonder of the world, nothing really prepares you for the spectacular natural beauty of Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, hailed as the largest cave on the planet. 

Featuring its own lake, jungle, waterfall and unique weather system it is a breathtaking sight and the closest underground kingdom to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth according to this documentary by writer-director Alastair Evan. 

Evans, who also acted as producer, cinematographer and film editor, visited the cave eight times over a five year period. Its entrance was discovered in 1990 by a local farmer but it wasn’t explored until 2009 by a British expedition team. 

In 2014 plans were announced to build a cable-car into the cavern to capitalise on this lucrative tourist spot, which sparked a major environmental campaign to save Son Doong. The film states that under the proposals, the number of people visiting the cave would increase from 500 a year to 1,000 an hour which many argue would destroy its delicate ecosystem. 

It also analyses the impact of Son Doong on the local community of Phong Nha which appears to be divided over the benefits this development would bring. 

The documentary includes interviews with environmental campaigners, local residents, business experts, as well as members of the original British exploration team and subsequent cave visitors, along with breathtaking footage of this gigantic cave. 

It explores the struggle to find the optimum balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth and asks to what lengths should we go to protect a beautiful place. Plus, when does the cost to the local people become too high a price to pay?

The film examines the issue of land rights in Vietnam and clashes with authorities, with one of the Save Son Doong campaigners arrested on camera.

Evans delivers a thought-provoking documentary without judgement which shows you a magical and wondrous world which has to be seen to be believed. You cannot help but want to preserve it. 

And although by the end there is a resolution, this is a case of watch this space. 

Out in cinemas today.


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