Friday, July 14, 2023

The Territory: The Battle to Save the Amazon Has Just Begun

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“The Territory” is a bold and incendiary Award-winning documentary that courageously uncovers the enigma of the mysterious fires in the Amazon rainforest.


In 2019, the world thought the destruction of the Amazon’s rainforest was from natural causes, dry seasons, and global warming. Behind those fires and deforestation were people in power, farming landowners, transnational companies, and evil men with guns who wanted to take away the land that, for years, belonged to the indigenous people of Brazil.


Intentional Fires in the Amazon, The Territory, Copyright © National Geographic 2022

During his political campaign, the Bolsonaro régime started hate speech against Brazil's indigenous people: "There won’t be getting one more inch of the indigenous reserve land.” When the populist candidate won the presidency, his government did nothing to protect the land, the natives, the flora and fauna, and the endangered species.

The original story came to light when 
one of the forest defenders and activists, Neidinha Bandeira, got enough hate mail, death threats, and a kidnapping attempt and decided to write an urgent message about her safety and the security of the people in the area to journalists worldwide.


Director Alex Pritz, producer Gabriel Uchida & producer Sigrid Dyekjær. Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo.
Raleigh Studios, Hollywood.
Copyright © Festival in LA, 2022

In 2016, a friend of the Award-winning Brazilian journalist and producer Gabriel Uchida told him to cover and document the story of the fires and the full-scale warfare the natives had to protect the rainforest. Since then, Gabriel moved to Amazon's communities to continue his journalist work and bring to light the recompilation of those tragic events.

Director Alex Pritz, producer Gabriel Uchida. Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo.
Raleigh Studios, Hollywood.
Copyright © Festival in LA, 2022

In New York, director Alex Pritz opened up the conversation with the elderly indigenous people and, with their permission, recorded their lives. Then, he got interested in filming the Brazilian natives in their land. Their resilience, courage, and resistance inspired him to get involved in the documentary.

Respectful of the indigenous cultural identity, Alex Pritz did not want to exploit the natives' land, culture, or language because the white settlers had taken so much from them, even their land. White people presumed ownership of the indigenous narrative and traditions.

The Territory, Copyright © National Geographic 2022

After one of those Dantesque fires, Neidinha questions the illegal actions of those without conscience and the tremendous environmental impact on humanity. She also asks for the safety of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people and wonders how many more will have to die protecting the rainforest.

Alex Pritz's non-intrusive camera work is extraordinary. His photography goes from the smallest insect to the aerial views of the Amazonia. He shares the cinematography credits with an insider, Tangãi Uru-eu-wau-wau.


Alex Pritz reached out to the Invaders, juxtaposing his personal experience and comparing the white trespassers in Brazil with American colonialism, who always see themselves as heroes without awareness of their actions.


It took three years to make the documentary. The challenges were enormous. The crew had to drive 6 to 8 and even 12 hours to arrive at the location during the rainy season. 


Editor Carlos Rojas lays an organic structure where audiences can easily follow each character in their natural environment thanks to individual introductions of their struggles and desires. The transitions he presents are beautiful. But, the desirable equilibrium to display all the storylines visually is not there. The unnecessary expository dialogues water down the emotional impact of this already powerful documentary.

Katya Mihailova's music is memorable; she carries a positive energy, and the upbeat rhythms create tension during the dangerous scenes. To identify the uniqueness of every character, the music composer gave a unique score to each of them, bringing the sounds of the frontier and the rainforest to another level.


Well-known director Darren Aronofsky (“The Whale,” “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”) also got involved, together with Sigrid Dyekjær (“The Cave,” “Food and Country,”) and Gabriel Uchida, from the outstanding producers' team giving total control and full support to director Alex Pritz.

The Territory, Copyright © National Geographic 2022

Knowledge empowers people. Therefore, Amazonians must document every incursion, intentional fire, and attempt against their lives using cameras, drones, computers, and social media as weapons against the invaders. Now, they can send the material directly to the news broadcasters and engage with more people to help protect Brazil's indigenous land.


Director Alex Pritz, producer Gabriel Uchida, film critic José Alberto Hermosillo & producer Sigrid Dyekjær.
Raleigh Studios, Hollywood.
Copyright © Festival in LA, 2022

Fanatics of President Bolsonaro learned about the making of the film and how the documentary empowered the native communities, wanted the filmmakers out of Brazil, and sent life threats to their phones, emails, and homes.


During the three weeks of theatrical release in Brazil, “The Territory” had a strong response from locals, where half of the audience was from indigenous communities.


"The Territory" is a highly recommended documentary nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including exceptional Merit Documentary Filmmaking, Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program. And now it is streaming on Hulu.

The National Geographic/Brazilian co-production is the Audience Award and the Special Jury Award Winner for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2022. The Cinema for Peace Award and Best Documentary at the Zurich Film Festival.

The Territory | Official Trailer | National Geographic

Director Alex Pritz, producer Gabriel Uchida & film critic José Alberto Hermosillo.
Raleigh Studios, Hollywood.
Copyright © Festival in LA, 2022

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