The way of life of the 10,000 Embera Indians who live in the Choco region of Colombia, South American, is threatened by the encroachments of Negro Libres (descendants of freed slaves) and by the expansion of the Pan-American highway which cuts through their land. The film's main concern is to show the effects of interaction between the Embera river dwellers and two groups of outsiders: the Libres with whom they trade, and the local Catholic mission which administers education, religion and civil justice. Although the Embera are exploited by the Libres (who, for example, sell them hunting dogs at very high prices) both groups are poor and largely without rights in Colombian society. In an interview, the Embera explain to the anthropologist that they want protection from the physical attacks of the Libres and legal rights over the land which they have inhabited for many years. Sequences such as this bring out the Embera's plight: they are caught between the bulldozers and the banknotes of the Libres. We are shown the material culture and way of life of the Indians (canoe building, pot making, hunting, curing rituals) but not in a romanticised way, and the polemical organisation of the film allows the ethnographic details of the life of these river Indians to be placed in a wide social and economic context.
Language and subtitles
English (no subtitles)
Land RightsIndigenous peoples / First Nations peoples