RKS Film: “The Territory”: A Glum Portrait of the Disappearing Amazonian Rain Forest

“The Territory” focuses on a tiny band of indigenous aboriginals the Uru-eu-wau-wau in the Brazilian Amazonian rain forest. Numbering less than 200 they are surrounded by “invaders” poor Brazilians desperate for a plot of land with no regard to indigenous land rights. They steal, slash and burn and then spray with insecticide. Then agribusiness replaces them. The “invaders” certainly have support from President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil who in his last election campaign promised there would not be another inch of indigenous reserves granted. Indigenous Affairs is understaffed and powerless and fatalistically says there is nothing they can do to stem the invasion and theft of indigenous lands.

So the Uru create a media team to document their demise. Quite frankly one is left with the impression in a couple of decades they will be but anecdotes in Amazonian rainforest history. Brazilians overall seem to resent indigenous people and the indigenous populations would appear to have more political support outside of Brazil than in it. Yes there are environmentalists in Brazil but they are threatened and intimidated. There are independent journalists as well but they do not seem much of a persuasive force.

I have seen a few similarly themed documentaries dealing with the threatened decimation and extinction of indigenous populations in Peru, Brazil, Canada (“Returning Home”), the Philippines and for the most part it is sort of a good guy bad guy scenario with the good guys, the indigenous population being the sole focus of the films but here we get up and close with the land invaders. Poor Brazilians tenaciously at any cost trying to claim land so they can deforest it, build homes, spray insecticides, and grow crops. They are the modern cowboys stealing land and destroying it for their needs. They are there “to liberate” the land and put it to use. Ignorant and crude as they may be the exploration of their mentality of desperation gives this documentary a great credibility and depth. And getting off topic the First Nations of Canada are in many respects facing the same fate as the Uru and historically they were driven out of their lands by settlers who were no better than the invaders of the Amazonian rainforest. As one invader states doesn’t the Bible say that people are meant to take the land and multiply. Of course, did the Bible not say thou shalt not steal!

What weapons do the Uru have? Drones and cameras to document the invaders on their territory. They also have initiated vigilante patrols and conduct citizen arrests and burn down invader’s shanties on their territory. One senses violence will be exerted against them by the majority invaders that surround them. In fact a 33-year-old Uru land protector is found at the side of the road beaten to death. International media may help but so far it has failed to stop the decimation of the Amazonian rainforest by farmers, cattle ranchers, agri-business, loggers and hydro-electric projects. The fact that the documentary is a National Geographic Film gives the Uru people an international audience but the final curtain may already be closing.

Brazilian greed, poverty and desperation unchecked by political forces spells the end of the Amazonian rainforest. Inevitable sadness.

In Canada the documentary has played in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and there is the possibility of additional screenings and VOD release.

Directed by Alex Pritz.

RKS Film Rating 91/100. 

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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