Alarm Clock Mail of May 1, 2024

Alarm Clock Mail of May 1, 2024
Alarm Clock Mail of May 1, 2024

Ten years ago, [le Portugais] João Salaviza and [la Brésilienne] Renée Nader Messora began filming the Krahô people, who live in Pedra Branca, a village in the state of Tocantins, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon. This time shared between the directors and the community has already led to The Song of the Forest, which won them the special jury prize at Cannes in 2018 [dans la section Un certain regard]. This relationship continues in The Flower of Buriti, their new feature film [prix d’Ensemble de la section Un certain regard à Cannes en 2023].

The Flower of Buriti begins with the birth pains of a woman in her hut, but we cannot say that this film is an interior film. According to Renée, this film is not the continuity, the sequel, of the previous one: “This is another thing. It’s a film that amplifies the gaze.” The intimate portrait of a teenager from Forest song gives way to a larger portrait, that of a community, explains the director.

“In this film, we take a step back to try to see a little further. We are trying to reflect the collective intelligence of this community.”

A fiction very close to reality

The film is a fiction inspired by the history of the Krahô people and highlights the violence to which they were subjected in the last century, from a massacre perpetrated by white planters in 1940 [pour s’approprier ses terres] to the hostile policies of Jair Bolsonaro’s years in office. Filmed over fifteen months, it is more than a document on the history of a people and the relationship they have with their land, it concerns the future.

The Krahô “are not stuck in the past but do not just live in the present either, they imagine a future and fight to get to that imagined future”, says Renée.

“When we see an indigenous movement going to Brasilia to demand their constitutional rights, we see that this is an idea of ​​the future.”

As in the previous film, there is doubt as to what is fiction and what is reality. One thing is certain: this massive mobilization which materializes towards the end, in one of the rare scenes not to take place in the depths of the Amazon but in the city of Brasilia, is not a fiction orchestrated by the two directors [elle fait écho à une manifestation survenue en 2021, voir encadré ci-dessous].

The need to fight

While the Krahô try to preserve their rites and traditions, representatives of the village plan a trip to the capital, where they join other indigenous leaders to ask the federal government to preserve these peoples. Hyjnõ Krahô, one of the protagonists of The Flower of Buriti [dans lequel il joue un rôle inspiré de sa propre vie]remembers the village’s desire to participate [dans la réalité] to the protest movement, a “moment of struggle”. “It’s not just the Krahô people who have this problem,” he recalls. Defending yourself was therefore not a choice but a necessity.

A “time frame” that does not pass

It was the largest indigenous demonstration ever organized in Brazil. In August 2021, some 6,000 indigenous people, members of 170 tribes, went to Brasilia to denounce the “time frame”. This measure, proposed under the far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2023) and supported by agribusiness, provides that “persons who were not on their land at the time of the promulgation of the Constitution in 1988 would not have the right to claim ownership of it,” summarized in May 2023 Folha de São Paulo. According to the Brazilian daily, this amounts to wanting “ignore all the expulsions and violence suffered by various peoples” indigenous people, notably under the military dictatorship (1964-1985). In 2023, after the return of the left to power with Lula da Silva, the measure was rejected by the Federal Supreme Court but voted on by Congress, creating an institutional conflict.

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“If I count on the president, the Ministry of Justice, Ibama [Institut brésilien de l’environnement et des ressources naturelles renouvelables] and the people who are supposed to protect us, we will always be invaded. So that what happened to my people does not happen to me, we must prepare ourselves, go from the community to the city,” he concludes.

A political film

What role can the “filmmakers and allies” (as the press release describes the two directors) in the struggle of indigenous peoples? None of them are strangers to the Krahô. Renée Nader Messora has lived in the village at various times of the year since 2010. João Salaviza arrived later, in 2014. “But, despite this friendship, this alliance, we continue to be two strangers, two non-natives who film other people who have received us openly and friendly for years,” says Salaviza. He notes the need to avoid any stereotypical discourse.

“The film is about the land, about resistance, much more than about the violence that has been committed throughout history, he declares. We absolutely do not want to perpetuate the image of the native as the helpless victim of a gigantic encirclement.. On another side, “even well-intentioned views on these issues often fall into a trap of failing to look at and describe an indigenous person without drawing opposition and contrast to the non-indigenous.”

This, according to the directors, is where the political character of the film lies. “Even though we filmed the trip to Brasilia and at first glance it might seem like the most political moment in the film, I think the politics we want to film is politics in indigenous terms . It is another policy, a policy without a state and without a market. They destabilize all our dualisms.”

The future of a people

Far from the tradition of a supposedly neutral and simple observer documentary cinema, it is through fiction [en intégrant récits des Krahô, reconstitutions du passé et scènes oniriques] that the directors give birth to “a cinema that people believe in”. It is not about creating a “indigenous cinema”, since this one “must exclusively concern films thought, directed, made by indigenous people, in their terms, without the need for mediation or intervention by a non-indigenous person”.

Cruwakwỳj Krahô, another protagonist of The Flower of Buriti, follows the conversation, with a penetrating and attentive eye. She has remained silent, but we question her about the importance of the films which tell her story, the history of the Krahô and their future. At one point in the film, a village woman says: “We must have children, otherwise our people will be finished.”

“There are very few of us, Cruwakwỳj confirms. Because of the massacre, we lost many parents and we still have difficulty having more children today. And to add: “We have to tell this story in the film: children are important. We’re going to have more kids.” And she smiles.


International mail is a partner of this film.

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