Published On: Tue, Nov 6th, 2018

“The Dark Side of Tulum” a documentary that unveils environmental devastation

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We can all remember a time when we were pushed just beyond our comfort zone and experienced the thrill of a new and sometimes daunting experience. A moment when the complete unknown went from scary to wonderful, and it was the sudden shift that made it special and memorable. For Rachel Appel, the 26-year-old New York-native and documentary filmmaker, most of those moments took place in Mexico.

“The first time I visited Tulum, I remember there was only candle light after sunset and I thought, ‘Wow, I need to be apart of this!’” Appel reminisces. “Coming from New York, the idea of not having electricity at any point in the day seemed crazy.” Tulum, the trendy beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that sits on the Caribbean Sea, was quieter back then. Smiling as she continues recounting her first visit to a place that has since become her off-and-on home, she says, “I realized I didn’t need electricity. Tulum provides everything that you need.”

Nearly a decade after that first visit to Tulum, Appel is making a documentary about the grave threats facing the region’s breathtaking ecosystem and what can be done to save it.

Growing up near the city, Appel reveled in weekend camping trips with her family, ‘far away from the chaos,’ and she says environmentalism runs through her veins. Her father works in renewable energy and her whole family is very nature and science oriented. Appel majored in environmental studies for her bachelors degree and then international journalism for her masters.

Her family travelled to Mexico every few years and it was always the wildlife and beautiful landscapes, so different from back home, that stuck with her the most. Appel says, “I remember horseback riding on completely deserted beaches, walking through jungles that were so thick it was more of an obstacle course, and climbing steps at Mayan ruins like Chichen-Itza. You’re not allowed to climb up anymore, there are too many people now.”

Appel was a teenager when she first visited Tulum and since then she has lived there various times. “I worked as a tour guide for a while and really fell in love with the place as I learned more and more about it.” She spent much of her early 20s showing tourists the natural marvels of her favorite place on earth.




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