A taut, intense environmental thriller that has a lot to say about the abuse of power and corporate greed and misconduct at the expense of the environment, “A Dark Truth” focuses on what happens when a corporation tries to cover up the widespread water pollution (and sickness) it caused in South America and the subsequent protests, military crackdown, and tragic violence that ensues. Opening January 4 in select cities and available now via VOD, the film stars Andy Garcia as an ex-CIA operative hired by a whistleblower (Deborah Kara Unger) to help her expose the truth and rescue an activist couple (Forest Whitaker, Eva Longoria) caught in the crossfire, and in the process right a wrong from his past.

“I was very stimulated by the concept of the story and the journey of the protagonist, what he’s struggling with,” says Garcia. “He’s a man that was devoted to a cause as a young man up to a point maybe five years before you see him. He did things that are unforgivable and unforgettable. He’s got blood on his hands. He’s trying to make amends for that.” As for the environmental theme, “I was aware of it, of course--the issue of water in the world is ever-present. I did not know that it had gone to the degree of cover-ups and killings and stuff like that,” Garcia adds. “That was an eye opener.”

Writer-director Damian Lee had been working on another project dealing with global water problems and discovered that corporations and the military were often involved, and believed the issue would lend itself to a thriller. Although “The Dark Truth” is fiction, he hopes it will inspire further thought, “because thought begets action. You can’t ask people to pick up a protest sign and go down to the local water plant and protest. It’s not feasible. But for me, it’s about consciousness. Living a more ecological lifestyle is a reflection of being more conscious, more respectful. It’s not too late to do something. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

The film was shot in Toronto and Sudbury, Canada before moving to the Dominican Republic, trading chilly weather for sweltering and other logistical challenges of the jungle. Explains Garcia, “You’re on a mountain and everything is on an incline. You’re either running uphill or downhill or negotiating the hill sideways everywhere you go whether you’re running and shooting or carrying a camera. So there’s pulled muscles, and soreness and fatigue, and there’s no PortaPotties up there. Base camp is an hour away.”

Under the circumstances, conserving wasn’t always easy. “You try to keep it as green as you can. You deal with the obvious things first and foremost, which is, any refuse is immediately taken, not left behind. You leave as little footprint as possible. The area we were working in is listed as one of the top five most polluted areas in the world because they used to have battery factories there,” comments Lee. “The proliferation of water bottles is a problem on sets. You try to bring canteens but the canteens have to be filled and that means you have to bring in water wagons, but that’s impractical in the jungle, so you use the bottles and recycle them. It was much easier in Toronto,” he compares. “Toronto has great recycling. There are bins everywhere, including ones for biodegradables.”

Garcia is a dedicated recycler off set as well. “At our house everything that’s recyclable goes into a bin—glass, plastic, paper.” Not only did he relish the complexities of his “Dark Truth” character, he welcomed the opportunity to work with Whitaker, with whom he worked in “The Air I Breathe” (“I cut his fingers off!”) and Longoria, whose husband he played in “The Greater Glory.” “I have great admiration for her. She’s a great gal, a great actress,” he praises.

Next, he’ll appear in several movies including a romantic dramedy called “The Middletons” with Vera Farmiga, “Open Road,” which casts him as Camilla Belle’s homeless father, the drama “What About Love,” in which he and Sharon Stone play parents dealing with the loss of their daughter, and an Ernest Hemingway bio he’ll direct and star in with Anthony Hopkins and Annette Bening. “It’s about the last ten years of his life in Cuba,” Garcia reveals. “We built a boat for it, a replica of the Pilar, his boat.” A large portion of the 50-day shoot will be on the water.

Lee’s next project, awaiting release, also has an environmental aspect. “Split Decision” is about a father (Brendan Fraser) who becomes an anti-logging activist but “gets seduced by his mission—he get more concerned with the applause than the cause.” There’s a brother (Dominic Purcell), a troubled, violent family history, and a crime, adds Lee. “It’s a thriller, a bit like ‘Deliverance.’”

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'A Dark Truth' sheds light on contaminated water cover-up
Andy Garcia and director Damian Lee discuss the movie's environmental message and on-set conservation efforts.