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Film Festival 09 - Birdwatchers


La terra degli uomini rossi, Italy/Brazil 2008, 108m
Director: Mario Bechis
Festivals: Venice 2008; Rotterdam, New Directors New Films 2009

The perilous status of the indigenous Guaranis of Brazil's Mato Grosso do Sul is revealed to the world in this vividly pictorial environmental/land rights thriller. Italo-Chilean director Marco Bechis worked for five years on the film and with the Guaranis themselves who make up its cast. It's as tourists, or birdwatchers, sailing up the river through the jungle that we suddenly come face-to-face with the Indians, naked apart from their paint, their weapons at the ready. The film's tourists sail on excitedly - and we follow the Indians who put on their jeans and collect their wages from the white landowner who operates the tours. The arrangement is a tense one and we watch as the increasingly alienated Guaranis leave their allocated reservation to reclaim their ancestral land, deforested though it has been. The escalating bitter struggle is played out with a lucid, matter-of-fact appreciation of the complex spiritual values at stake. - Bill Gosden

"The film is particularly effective in capturing the uneasy fascination and rumbling antipathy between two vastly different cultures forced to live side by side& The film bears certain similarities with Ten Canoes, the fable set in an Australian indigenous community directed by Rolf De Heer. Both films are underscored by an earthy humour; both have a refreshingly prosaic approach to the mystical& Like Ten Canoes, the strength of the storytelling and the rich character detail mean that Birdwatchers is unlikely to be dismissed as an ethnographic curiosity. But while Ten Canoes had a timeless, mythic quality, Birdwatchers' contemporary setting gives it an added urgency." - Wendy Ide, The TimesIn Portuguese and Guarani, with English subtitles