Opening 16 Jul 2009
Writing credits: Marco Bechis, Luiz Bolognesi, Lara Fremder
Principal actors: Claudio Santamaria, Alicélia Batista Cabreira, Chiara Caselli, Abrísio da Silva Pedro, Matheus Nachtergaele
Birdwatchers, a social drama by the Italian-Chilean-Argentinian director Marco Bechis, is a plea for audiences to understand the plight of the Guarani-Kaiowà in Brazil. The film opens to a lush, verdant landscape where birdwatching tourists are rowing down a picturesque river. They pass a group of Indians scantily clothed and in war paint. Later we see the same Indians getting dressed and receiving money for the "show." These are the circumstances to which the indigenous people are reduced in their own homeland. They are forced to live on reservations, have little or no work and hunting is so poor that it is almost non-existent. Alcoholism prevails and some commit suicide as a way out.
Nadio, a village leader, leaves the reservation with his followers and squats on a piece of land which their shaman believes to have been a sacred burial site. They set up plastic tents and are able to get water at a creek only by crossing the land of a well-to-do white farmer (who is proud that his family has lived there a whole 60 years!). The contrast of the rich farmer and the poor natives is always apparent. For example, the Indians fetch water necessary for their existence from the same creek where the farmer's teenage daughter goes swimming for pleasure. A few of the Indians decide to accept a job in the fields of a nearby farm, and Nadio's teenage son uses part of his earnings for fancy sneakers instead of food. His father feels that his son has accepted modern life and has rejected the tribe, and because his father is so disappointed in him, the son commits suicide. His friend Oswaldo is devastated. He puts on war paint and goes to the nearby farmer's home yelling and repeatedly uttering an eerie sound that is something between a scream and a howl. His howls and despair are unforgettable, and that I think is the point of the movie.
Motets by a Jesuit composer who worked with the Guaranis during the eighteenth century are the background music for much of the film. (Thelma Freedman)