Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Internet Source: DER Documentary: Secrets of the Tribe, Documentary Educational Resources.
Secrets of the Tribe
The field of anthropology goes under the magnifying glass in this fiery investigation of the seminal research on Yanomami Indians. In the 1960s and '70s, a steady stream of anthropologists filed into the Amazon Basin to observe this "virgin" society untouched by modern life. Thirty years later, the events surrounding this infiltration have become a scandalous tale of academic ethics and infighting.
The origins of violence and war and the accuracy of data gathering are hotly debated among the scholarly clan. Soon these disputes take on Heart of Darkness overtones as they descend into shadowy allegations of sexual and medical violation.
Director José Padilha brilliantly employs two provocative strategies to raise unsettling questions about the boundaries of cultural encounters. He allows professors accused of heinous activities to defend themselves, and the Yanomami to represent their side of the story. As this riveting excavation deconstructs anthropology's colonial legacy, it challenges our society's myths of objectivity and the very notion of "the other."
“In the world documentary section, one of the best is the new work by Brazil's José Padilha, who did the excellent Bus 174. His complex, shattering Secrets of the Tribe examines the effects that waves of cultural anthropologists have had on the Yanomami Indians of the Amazon basin, a society that had been totally isolated from nominal civilization.” — Kenneth Turan, LA Times
“Director Jose Padhila has brilliantly turned the methods of anthropology on the anthropologists themselves... The result is a film that challenges us to look at definitions of self and other, and that provides a record that is almost the same as the entire history of contact and colonialism suffered by many Indigenous peoples of many lands over many centuries - but in this case condensed into thirty or so sordid and appalling years... (Secrets of the Tribe) provides us with a clear and cautionary tale of how ego skews perspective and, in doing so, creates a world of suffering. I left the theater ashamed to be a member of the "academic tribe." And having said that, this is a film that I would recommend to all - especially academics.” — Michele Desmarais, Journal of Religion and Film
“While there is plenty to be appalled about here, Secrets of the Tribe is actually quite funny, insightful and entertaining. The egos, the inconsistencies and the battle of the minds keep the narrative moving forward at superb speed, raising questions about motive, opportunity and objectivity along the way.” — John Esther, Moving Pictures Magazine
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