The last guardians of the Amazon
'A Última Floresta,' the award-winning Brazilian documentary, is a tribute to the resistance of the aboriginal Yanomami people in Brazil.
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White people don’t know about the Yanomami. They have never seen them, and their ears do not understand their speech. However, this native people has lived for more than a thousand years in the Amazon forest, in northern Brazil and very close to the southern territory of Venezuela.
Rooted in a wildly natural, green and remote territory, the group maintains its language, customs, worldview on the creation of the world and a social order guided by the sacred wisdom of the shamans. It is made up of men who hunt and women who dedicate themselves to childcare and basketry.
Any human being adapted to modern superficialities could imagine an idyllic enclave. But this ancestral region and the well-being of the Yanomami people are threatened by diggers ('garimpeiros,' in Portuguese) searching for gold and other minerals. This activity, covered by 2019 regulations, not only threatens water quality and spreads diseases such as COVID in a community that has lived in voluntary isolation for decades, but also stands as a temptation for young people curious to learn about life beyond the lush Amazon forest.
This is the story explored in the documentary A Última Floresta (The Last Forest). It is directed by Brazilian director, screenwriter and anthropologist Luiz Bolognesi and produced by Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane, Lais Bodanzky and Luiz Bolognesi of Gullane and Buriti Filmes.
The film narrates the daily life of the community members in the forest and in the multi-family house, built in the shape of a cone, where they share their rituals and beliefs. All this would not have been possible without the collaboration of shaman, activist and writer Davi Kopenawa Yanomami.
Speaking to AL DÍA from Brazil, producer Caio Gullane said that after “having had contact with the Yanomami and having approached Davi, Luiz suggested inviting him to write the script for the film. This was essential for the veracity and power of the narrative."
"Having Davi with us and his complicit relationship with Luiz made the whole process smoother. They already knew we were there to portray them from their tribe’s point of view and not from our point of view, as ‘traitorous foreigners.’ Of course we had a story in mind, but we let other issues come to light, which made all the Yanomami in the village part of the creative process," said Gullane.
Davi, spokesman for the most internationally-recognized people, had a clear vision of what he wanted to show on the big screen: The strength of a community that, cornered by white interference, resists in the Amazon against all odds.
“I wanted to make a film that enhances their people and shows the shamans strong. I didn’t want a film of suffering, with the Indigenous people as victims, but as the power that they are,” he said.
A village ignored by the world
The final result of five weeks of filming in the Amazon was first screened in the village.
“Our biggest concern was that the Yanomami could see themselves reflected in the film and understand it. Achieving that was our greatest joy and it happened because we didn’t make a film properly about them, but one of them, together with them,” noted Gullane.
The deep observation, the power of sound and the narration in the Indigenous language led A Última Floresta to win the Best Film award by the public at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) in 2021, the Best Film award at The Seoul International Eco Film Festival in the same year, and the statuette for Best Documentary at the Platino Awards in 2022.
For the producer, the awards are further proof that Latin American countries have a lot to tell about their native people.
“Many have a situation similar to Brazil’s, where global culture suppressed Indigenous culture. The approval for this production shows that there is room for change,” Gullane added.
In his own words, the production “is an exposure of what is happening today, of the 'garimpeiros’ invasion of Indigenous lands, of the diseases they spread, of the deaths they cause, of the contamination of rivers and deforestation. If some people are moved by this project, demand and express themselves, we will have already achieved one of our goals.”
The cast of A Última Floresta consists of Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Ehuana Yaira Yanomami, Pedrinho Yanomami, Joselino Yanomami, Nilson Wakari Yanomami, Júnior Wakari Yanomami, Roseane Yanomami, Daucirene Yanomami, Genésio Yanomami, and Justino Yanomami. The documentary is available on Netflix.