Alex Prydz’s “The Territory” tells the story of 183 members of the Uru-e-u-wau-wau tribe, living in the tribe’s 7,000 square miles of pristine old-growth rainforest in the western part of the Brazilian Amazon, where farmers and illegal settlers live. documenting the fight against deforestation brought about by This immersive, 1 hour and 20 minute film of his relies on footage of the verités filmed in part by the Uru-eu-wau-wau tribe over his three years, and the farmers and It depicts illegal burning and clearing by settlers. , as a community that risks their lives to capture and expose the truth.
The filmmaker explains how he was introduced to the people of Ulu Ew Wah Wah, the challenges and accessibility issues he faced making the film.
Encountering the “Godmother of Nature Conservation”
Pritz first learned of Neidinha Bandeira, a human rights activist, a kind of “conservation godmother” in the western part of the Brazilian Amazon, through environmental magazines and magazines. He also saw some YouTube interviews about her work to protect the rainforest and the isolated indigenous groups that still live there, and thought she had an interesting story to tell.
Jair Bolsonaro then launched his presidential campaign in 2018. His far-right rhetoric and actions against rainforests and indigenous peoples drove Prydz to do something.
“We reached out to Neidinha and said, ‘Your job seems to be getting tough really fast. Can I come see you?’ he says. Their first conversation was online.
Once Bolsonaro won, Pritz’ prediction came true. Since taking office in 2019, activists and environmental advocates, including Bandeira, have been targeted by violence in Brazil.
“She gave up a lot of her freedom, her freedom of movement, to do this job,” he says. “It’s really her family that bears the brunt…and the situation is only going to get worse.”
Shifting focus to people who are buzzing
Inspired by Bandeira’s work and the impending change, Pritz’s first idea was to make a film about her. began filming during the 2018 Brazilian presidential election.
However, ten days after Bolsonaro took office, a major invasion occurred in nearby indigenous territory, and Prydz decided to follow Bandeira, who responded to the invasion. Took him to the people of Ulu Ew Wah Wah.
“And then a long conversation began with elders in that community about filmmaking and what it entailed and whether they thought the film would be a profitable endeavour,” he explains.
Pretz’s focus in the film was on the struggle of the Ulu Yu Wow Wow people, a community of approximately 183 people who defend 7,000 square miles of pristine virgin rainforest in the western Amazon forest.
“When it comes to film media activism, international politics, and the idea of a campaign of influence, it takes a lot of conversations about all of this and demonstrating what it is before you actually start working with them. I needed it,” he says.
Collaborate with the community
After living in voluntary isolation as hunter-gatherer nomads, the Brazilian government forcibly contacted the Uru eu wah wah in the 1980s. Despite this, most of the older members still have no connection with the outside world and speak only their native language, Kawahib.
“On my next trip, I took my camera with me so people could interview me. [and] The fact is… you don’t have a lot of privacy when you’re in front of the camera and in front of a verite, present-tense movie like this,” he says.
That was important in building trust.
To Pritz’s surprise, young members of the community, including one of the film’s main characters, Bitaté Uru-eu-wau-wau, are leading fully digital lives. “He has an Instagram account. He’s on his WhatsApp,” he says. “He knows film and media and the power of it. I was able to help explain to the elders.”
The participatory nature of cinema
A pandemic has hit the area as filming is underway. Ulu Eu Wah Wah has made the decision to ban access to the reservation because Brazil’s indigenous communities have been disproportionately affected by her COVID-19.
“This idea of an outside pathogen entering a community from a foreign country and causing devastation has had its historical memory within the community,” Pretz explains. Elders remember that within two years of his contact in the 1980s, more than half of the population died of measles and tuberculosis.
Production was discontinued, but Vitate had Pretz send him cameras and audio equipment so he could continue filming from their point of view.
“We were very excited about it. It was really great to be able to do the rest of the movie,” he says.
One of the community’s teachers, Tangai Uru-eu-wau-wau, became interested in cinematography and volunteered to continue making films. “So we started building the participatory nature of the film through informal workshops on cameras and filmmaking and how it works,” Pretz affirms.
“We don’t have to save.”
Pritz said one of the key aspects of the film is that it refutes the narrative of white rescuers by recognizing that those doing conservation work are uru yu wow wow. says. Whenever someone asks Uru-eu-wau-waus, How can I save the Amazon? ’” Vitate will answer emphatically. No need to save. We are the ones who save you. We are working to protect these rainforests that stabilize the world’s climate,” explains Pritz.
contact with invaders
Bolsonaro’s presidency also encouraged farmers, miners and settlers to clear the Amazon’s vast forests, while he undermined environmental regulations. In fact, encroachment and exploitation of protected Indigenous lands has tripled under his administration, advocacy groups say.
To make this film, Prtiz believed he needed to talk to the invaders. It took some time to gain their trust, but Bandeira and Vitate believed they would talk to Pretz. United States,” he says. “These are all the same ideas that fuel Brazil’s northward expansion all the way to the Amazon rainforest.”
Sundance “was like the home run of a lifetime.”
The film was independently funded and distributed by National Geographic and won 12 awards. Among them are his two Sundance Awards for World Cinema Documentary and Documentary Craft.
“Everything from there is just the icing on the cake,” he says. “I just got into Sundance and getting that call was like the home run of a lifetime for me.”
“The Territory” is a theatrical release and will be released on Disney+ in the fall.