The Kayapo

[the-kayapo--Film-list-image]
©DWS
52 minutes / Colour / 1987
Directed by
Michael Beckham

Anthropologist Terence Turner

Country of production United Kingdom

Series Disappearing World Series

This film focuses on the conflicts and determination of a group of people trying to survive and maintain their ethnic identity in the face of almost overpowering odds. The film contrasts the reactions of two groups of Kayapo to outside influence. The Kapot have opposed contact and resisted both non-indigenous Brazilian settlers and gold miners. The Gorotire, by contrast, were invaded by gold miners who strip-mined their land and polluted their rivers. The miners paid the Gorotire very little for the destruction until 1985 when the Gorotire forced the miners to raise the commission by 5% when 200 warriors seized the airstrip. This commission amounts to two million dollars per year for the tribe and the tribe is learning to cope with the money, both with the problems it brings and the power it gives. They have trained several of their number to deal effectively with the outside world on behalf of the rest of the tribe and they now run a plane (and hire a pilot) to patrol their land against intruders.

The Kapot, in their own way, are also trying to assert their identity and independence. This portion of the film shows the Kapot in the traditional activities of building and dismantling a hunting camp. The hunters returning with the tortoises they have caught are a particularly impressive sight. The now famous Chief Rop-ni is featured as a leader of the Kapot and he states eloquently his opposition to the Gorotire's acceptance of the gold miners. Despite their adherence to tradition, however, the Kapot use modern technology – video, radios, etc. – to protect their interests and record their rituals.

This is a political film and would be excellent for courses in anthropology, Latin American studies, ecology, development, and international politics.

S. Nugent, 1989. Review of the film in Anthropology Today Vol. 5, No. 5, pp. 18–19.

T. Turner, 1990. `Visual Media, Cultural Politics, and Anthropological Practice. Some Implications of Recent Uses of Film and Video among the Kayapo of Brazil'. C.V.A. Review, Spring 1990, pp. 8–13. [In this article Turner discusses the context in which The Kayapo and The Kayapo – Out of the Forest were made.]

T.Turner, 1992. Defiant Images. The Kayapo appropriation of Video. In: Anthropology Today, Vol.8.6, pp.5-16.

Language and subtitles English with English Subtitles

Region South America

Country Brazil

Keywords Land Rights Indigenous peoples / First Nations peoples Political Activists Resistance Social Conflict