Indigenous peoples are standing up to the illegal destruction of the Brazilian Amazon. These tribes are the key to its preservation. They face a potential rising tide of dam building on their lands. Belo Monte dam is the biggest of them all, the world’s third largest dam. The dam has been built and the license for its operation has been debated and battled over. It is just a matter of time before water churns through the massive structure blocking the Xingu River. This tragedy is not just environmentally, morally, and ethically wrong. It is illegal. Brazil has violated its own laws with the construction of this eleven billion dollar project. Public embarrassment rendered through international press and lawsuits against the government have been powerless to prevent this tragedy.
Social unrest stretches beyond the twenty kilometers of walls that line the canal leading to the dam, now the third largest in the world. The story in this film, TRIBE, is based on such real life social unrest. It integrates the real, day-to-day life of the indigenous with a narrative story about one indigenous teenage girl who is displaced by rising waters then thrust into the hands of human traffickers. Lost and unprotected, she must figure out how to escape and find her way home.
When a dam is built, the thousands of male workers brought in to build it are quickly followed by sex workers. Yet, I did not realize that this story was so authentic that people in the local town would try to arrest me and my crew, thinking we were trafficking our film’s thirteen year-old indigenous star. After our closest call, we carried a letter of permission from her mother, our contract, and sometimes brought her mother, too.
This film and its story are fiction, but reflect the reality of the Amazon in 2016. Verdant foliage masks a tumult that promises to erase this forest and pillage its peoples unless we put a stop to it.
- Sabrina McCormick