Denise Zmekhol’s documentary Children of the Amazon recently picked up the Bronze Drum Award at the Nepal International Indigenous Film Festival. The filmmaker offered BTB a report from her trip, with some special footage from the doc. Children of the Amazon will be rebroadcast on May 14 and 15 on the WORLD Channel.
In April I was invited to participate in the Nepal International Indigenous Film Festival. I returned feeling very inspired by the 10 days I spent in Kathmandu. I met many indigenous filmmakers from Nepal and around the world. Although one nation politically, Nepal — the birthplace of Buddha — is truly a multiethnic, multilingual, and multifaith country.
It was an amazing experience to share Children of the Amazon with the Nepali audience, many of whom knew very little about the Amazon even though deforestation is a major issue in Nepal. I was invited to do a personal presentation on the theme of the "Evolving Indigenous Woman" in conjunction with the film festival. I shared my perspective on what happens when development does not respect the environment, the individual or community rights. I also described the impact of this development both positive and negative on women and young girls. I created a special clip with excerpts from Children of the Amazon to show the interaction among women as they discuss issues of rainforest logging and education; and how they relate to living in two worlds — the one before contact with outsiders (only 40 years ago) and the other, the result of that contact.
Most indigenous women I met during the making of my film viewed education as the means of coping with a non-indigenous world. The example I used in the clip was clear-cutting of the rain forest. Conflict is inevitable; how to survive without letting themselves being exploited by the economic power that continues to destroy their resources — including as Motira Surui says, even the fruit trees that the indigenous people use for food.
One scene that I used in the clip shows a symbolic clash between generations, one that seems universal in any culture. We see the elder Weiã telling her daughter how she would like to see her daughter wearing the same face tattoos that the Surui people have used for thousand of years. The daughter simply responds that she doesn't want the tattoos. After the screening people told me they were inspired by the way the film represented the span of time between the original photographs then and the young people shown now.
The film festival honored Children of the Amazon with the Bronze Drum Award. I also met with the Directors Guild of Nepal. Their struggle mirrors our own in terms of the need for funding. Their situation is even more difficult with no government support for filmmaking. What private support exists often seeks purely commercial projects. However the Nepali films I've seen capture the beauty of Nepal that I saw firsthand, and also reveal a country of economic struggle and armed Maoist revolution. Nepal was a highlight in the presentation of my film around the world. I experienced once again the sensation that we are all connected through our shared fate of the planet and in that sense all of us are children of the Amazon.
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