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Internet Source: The National Business Review, tuesday, July 13, 2010
Source URL: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/film-festival-docos-focus-south-american-tribes-126066


Film Festival docos focus on South American tribes

John Daly-Peoples

Two South American documentaries at the NZ International Film Festival deal with groups of people on the edge of society.

One is about the anthologists of last century studying one of the last of the primitive tribes the other looks at the creation of a new tribe.

The Secrets of the Tribe Director: José Padiha

If you have studied anthropology over the past few decades you would have come across Napoleon Chagnon’s seminal work on the Yananamo. Back in the 1960s and 1970s he was the archetypal modern anthropologist in the way he carefully inserted himself into a primitive culture with a minimum of disruption.

He was the first of a number of anthropologists who studied the pristine, primitive culture of the Yananamo. who lived in the forests of the Amazon and Venezuela.

But why was some of his research funded by the Atomic Energy Committee and why did he protect one of his fellow anthropologists, Jacques Lizot, from charges of interfering with young boys and essentially turning them into prostitutes?

These are just a couple of the fractious debates that have erupted over the work of the anthropologists working with the Yananamo, leding the tribe to saying it doesn’t want the researchers coming any more.

Most of the accusations have been around for more than a decade but Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha manages to get interviews with most of the men who have studied the tribe. They reveal their petty infighting, each of them defending their positions and slagging off the others.

It’s a fascinating film about how both the anthropologists and the Yananamo have been corrupted.

Waste Land Director: Lucy Walker

Most New Zealand cities consider themselves to be eco friendly by installing recycling plants to clean up the rubbish. They need to take a look at this film.

In Rio de Janeiro, which has the biggest landfill dump in the world, they have effectively got a massive recycling project going but they didn’t have to spend millions on it.

A couple of thousand people descend on the tip every day and weed through the daily piles of rubbish. They collect it, deliver it in bins to contractors on site who pay them.

It's incredibly efficient and has all those people in employment. The workers are organised and unionised, even if they don’t earn much. They even have their own kitchens on site and the food; fruit, vegetables and meat comes straight from the supermarket discards.

Despite their lowly status these workers have a certain dignity and intelligence; some of them have conversations about Nietzsche and other philosophers.

One of the other threads of Waste Land tells the story of the photographer Vik Muniz, who goes to the Rio dump in a remarkable combination of art production and social project.

He creates a series of photographs based on the workers and the rubbish they deal with. One of the works is based on an image of David’s Death of Marat, which one of the workers finds in the trash. Using an old bath and other material they create an improvised version of the famous painting.

After the photograph session, the manipulation of the image and incorporation of elements of the rubbish the work ends up in a London auction house, where it sells for £28,000.

The money is then returned to the workers for their benefit. The final sequence shows the workers turning up to an exhibition of their portraits held at the Rio de Janiero Museum of Contemporary Art.