We hear about the Amazonian rain forests all the time when there’s talk about climate change and global warming. Sting was there – seems like everyone was – but have you really seen its peoples up close? We get the chance to observe them, their way of life and their culture in director Luiz Bolognesi’s fascinating third project The Last Forest.
The intro card tells us the Yanomami have lived in northern Brazil and southern Venezuela for over 1,000 years. We’re introduced to a family: a mother chopping alligator for dinner, the father telling his sons about all the animals they can hunt. This viewer thought The Last Forest was a documentary, but as it continues, the penny drops that this indigenous community – while authentic – are acting according to the director’s story. We journey back and forth between everyday situations and dream sequences. Men prepare themselves for battle against the white men and arrows are shot. The tale of how the Yanomami were created is revealed. A father goes missing and is lured away by a Yawarioma – a woman-shaped fish. Evil spirits abound.
The script was co-written by Davi Kopenawa, who’s a shaman and chief here, and a real-life activist. The Yanomami are fighting a losing battle against the mining prospectors and other intruders who are still raping their land for gold and other materials and poisoning their rivers. The outsiders, over time, have brought diseases like smallpox and now covid. Some of the young adults have left and more will follow. Is it wrong for them to want to live in a city? Just how modernised is everyone in this wilderness? Let us hope that this really isn’t the last forest.
Showing as part of WOW Film Festival’s Ecosinema season until Sun 26 Sept. Info and streaming: here
Dir: Luiz Bolognesi (12A*, 76 mins)
words RHONDA LEE REALI