El canto de la selva

João Salaviza & Renée Nader Messora, Brazil, 2018

This film is a very beautiful thing. It isn’t a documentary, but we do see non-actors in their real environment. Those non-actors are indigenous Krahô people from a small village in the Amazon jungle. The story is constructed, but how and where the people live is not.

The filmmakers capture the wild and alive rainforest so well, at times dreamlike, always vast and bigger than the people. The relationship between the people and their environment is symbiotic. Our hero Ihjãc looks very out of place when he goes to the nearest ‘city’ to try to escape the shaman he has become.

I was a bit wary that the story was a bit too simplistic, maybe perpetuating stereotypes that we have of these ‘uncivilized’ people – there was no abstract thinking, but beliefs in animal spirits and the power of rituals was very strong. Though it was clear to me that mankind has not changed so much since we all lived this way. We still have our rituals, beliefs and complex social interactions. We are very much less in touch with our environment, though; the balance has tipped, our domination of it has destroyed our own habitat. Hello climate change.

Wonderfully, the film also records the Krahô language. The people speak really slowly and with not much intonation (kind of like everyone’s just really stoned! Good for me – it made the Spanish subtitles easier to read). In general, actually, both spoken and expressed through the face, there wasn’t much emotion. It’s interesting to wonder whether this is because feelings are expressed differently in that culture or whether being observed by the cameras and acting out a story was changing how the people would normally behave.

Anyway, a lovely film I’m glad they made and I’m glad I saw.

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