Inês T. Alves, Portugal 2022
The Generation section of the Berlinale focuses on children’s cinema. While this may evoke images of colorful animation and simplistic storytelling, the films highlighted in this section are often just as challenging and thought-provoking as those in the more mature sections of the festival. WATERS OF PASTAZA was part of Generation Kplus, which is for the youngest cinemagoers and is recommended for children aged 6+.
At just over an hour in length, WATERS OF PASTAZA is a slow, slice-of-life documentary that follows various Indigenous Achuar children in Ecuador as they go about their days. They play in the water with their rubber boots, hack at trees with machetes, and travel on boats down the river. Despite their very young ages, they are incredibly self-reliant, and there is nary a hovering adult to be seen, despite the backdrop of a wild tropical rainforest.
It is always fascinating to watch how people around the world live, as it challenges us to reevaluate our own social norms and expectations. Children are often far more capable than we give them credit for, and WATERS OF PASTAZA does a great job of highlighting this fact. That being said, where the film falters is in its length. An hour is quite a long time to watch children play in a rainforest with practically no dialogue. Considering this film was screened to very young children at the festival, it seems unlikely that many six-year-olds would have the patience to sit quietly though it. Still, it was a pleasant snapshot of a different sort of life, and that is always nice to see.