Shake is a powerful shaman of the Yanomami people. He wields his power to heal and to protect his people against their enemies in this world and beyond. Tracing his life and the life of his...
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Shake is a powerful shaman of the Yanomami people. He wields his power to heal and to protect his people against their enemies in this world and beyond. Tracing his life and the life of his community over 40 years of their history, Shake tells how he and his people grapple with new ideas that come from the outside world and the challenging decisions they make in order to maintain their identity and survive as a people.Written by
I had the privilege of seeing a special screening of Yai Wanonabälewä: The Enemy God. The Enemy God tells the story of Shake, a powerful Yanomamö shaman in the Amazon rain forest. Shake is the vessel for many spirits as he works to protect and heal his people. The film moves back and forth between the 1950s and the 1990s, as it traces the Yanomamö's war with a neighboring village, and Shake's internal war with a spirit that a missionary family told him about: the Great Spirit, known by the Yanomamö people as the Enemy God. Particularly troubling is the Great Spirit's promise of peace when all Shake and his people have known is violence.
The film uses indigenous people as actors, and the believability is a tribute to Bessette's skill as a director (and writer). I was captivated especially by the relationship between Shake and Tangled-One, another shaman, and was impressed by their skill and ease in front of a camera.
Most faith-based movies become overly preachy and alienate people who don't share that faith. The Enemy God avoids preaching at the audience by its simple desire to just tell the true story of the Yanomamö people. This lack of preachiness will undoubtedly draw criticism from those Christians who want a more straightforward telling of the gospel and an altar call at the end. But it will also draw the praise of those who let the story unfold in its own time and at its own pace.
The Enemy God will be screened at two more film festivals in June 2008, one in Swansea, Wales, and the other at the Talking Slick Film Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you have a chance, see it.
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