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Battle to halt Amazon deforestation laid bare in film ‘The Territory’


By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON (Reuters) – Filmmaker Alex Pritz delves into the shrinking heart of the Amazon basin in documentary “The Territory”, depicting the dangers that one indigenous tribe faces in protecting its heritage at a pivotal moment for the world’s largest rainforest.

The U.S. cinematographer-turned-director follows members of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe as they try to stop farmers and settlers from taking their ancestral lands in the state of Rondonia.

The tribes “are doing it to defend themselves and their home,” Pritz told Reuters on Wednesday in an interview.

“But it’s also really important for the rest of us outside of Brazil to recognise that they’re doing it for us too, and that their work is helping save all of us from the worst effects of our own emissions on this warming planet.”

Illegal logging and mining in the Brazilian Amazon has surged under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has pushed to allow more mining and commercial farming there to reduce poverty while cutting back environmental enforcement and defunding indigenous agency Funai.

In making what is his first feature-length documentary, Pritz also spent time with the farmers who dream of carving out their own patch of land.

“They see themselves as these virtuous pioneers going out and turning wilderness into private property,” he said.

“…One of the settlers says Brazil was created like this and every other country too and he’s right. Most colonial states were birthed out of indigenous land expropriation … and so it felt really important to all of us to try to understand that and capture those people in those parts of the world.”

Attacks on Brazil’s indigenous people and invasions of their lands by illegal miners and loggers, mainly in the Amazon, increased sharply in 2021, escalating an already “terrifying” situation, the Catholic Church’s Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi) said last month.

Environmental activists are likewise in the firing line.

In June, British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered during a research trip in a remote part of the Amazon invaded by illegal fishermen, loggers and gold miners.

“The situation, especially for indigenous people, is getting worse,” Pritz said.

“The Territory” opens in UK cinemas on Friday.

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; editing by John Stonestreet)

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