Manifesting destiny

    INDIGENOUS RIGHTS: Promised dominion over their own rainforest territory, Brazil's Uru-eu-wau-wau people have since faced illegal incursions from mining companies and land-grabbing invasions spurred on by right-wing politicians.

    As a critic keenly attuned to white (especially American) saviour filmmaking, I was admittedly wary of tuning in to Alex Pritz’s debut feature The Territory, which just nabbed double honours (the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Documentary Craft and the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary) at this year’s online Sundance. The film follows the plight of the Indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people, who, along with the Brazilian rainforest they call home, may soon no longer exist. Pritz, a non-Indigenous American director, and cinematographer – who’s worked with Matthew Heineman, another white American that likewise has a habit of dropping in on foreign conflict zones to lend a do-gooding cinematic hand – originally was introduced to the Uru-eu-wau-wau through environmental and human rights activist Neidinha Bandeira. The feisty Bandeira, who grew up in the rainforest observing the tribe and eventually became one of the doc’s main characters, has fought for the Uru-eu-wau-wau for decades though is not Indigenous herself. Nor for that matter is Gabriel Uchida, the Sao Paolo-born journalist, and photographer who connected Pritz with Bandeira in the first place. (Uchida is listed as a producer on the film – as is high-profile white American Darren Aronofsky.)

    The Territory, a film by Alex Pritz
    The Territory, a film by Alex Pritz

    A complicated triangle

    In other words, all of this non-Indigenous involvement – especially at a time when ridiculously talented filmmakers like New Zealander (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui Māori) Taika Waititi and Native American (Muscogee Creek/Seminole) Sterlin Harjo are landing deals in Hollywood and bringing all-Indigenous crews with them – initially left . . .

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    Lauren Wissot
    A US-based film critic and journalist, filmmaker and programmer.
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