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A boat with tourists is sailing up the river through the jungle. Suddenly they come face-to-face with Indians, naked apart from their paint, with self-made weapons at the ready. The tourists sail on excitedly. The Indians put on their jeans and collect their daily wages. The Guarani, one of Brazil's oldest Indian communities, are forced to live in a reservation. A small group of Guarani decide to leave the reservation and settle in a traditional territory that has belonged to white men for several generations. The clash between two conflicting cultures is conceived as a suspense story with mystical elements. The actors are real Indians with no actor training. Written by
Warsaw Film Festival
I try to watch all World cinema films shown for free on BBC4 and BirdWatchers was no exception. Within two minutes I'd fallen in with it, its relevancy - and irreverence.
From the opening tourist-pleasing shots to when this group of indigenous Guarani Indians put on T- shirts and board trucks to go look for work, I knew that this film had attitude and was worth sticking with. A natural wicked humour shone through from the non-professional cast, as if unscripted.
Yes, I found the suicides difficult to cope with and their subsequent cool treatment. I also found the attempts of conveying spiritual and religious interjections, with juddery camera work and awkward sound effects off-putting and misplaced.
Leaving the Reservation that's set aside for them and illegally making camp on sacred ground that's now fenced off and deforested, they fall foul of the European landowner. The landowner's children do nothing all day except swim where they like - and upsetting rituals of the tribes-people and riding scooters. They're spoilt and brattish. One of the teenage girls taunts and tries to seduce the trainee shaman, whose devout law is not to sully himself with pleasures of the flesh, let alone from another race, and definitely not from a family seen as an enemy. He's often torn with both his tribal responsibilities and his attractions for the girl. Some of these scenes don't really work very well but I suppose they did convey youthful apprehensions.
Later in the film there were quite a few skirmishes between groups and I have to confess I lost track of who/what and why they were doing what they were. It seemed to end on a frenetic note and a stark written epilogue flashes up, that is both sobering and alarming. There is no doubt a huge political and ecological message within the film's 100 minutes and largely this has been put across as best it can. Certainly better than a western documentary maker spending a month only focusing on the juicy bits and it's a pity that more people won't get to see it
and to learn and appreciate this people's plight.
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