‘The Territory’ director Alex Pritz on ‘doing justice to a community you’re not part of’

“Living in a habitable planet and being able to survive here for generations to come should not be a political issue,” declares Alex Pritz, director of the National Geographic documentary “The Territory.” “The conflict that we were looking at in Brazil, a lot of people are just focused on them and theirs. They agree the rainforest is a good thing. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a national treasure for Brazil, but I just need my little chunk of it here. Then behind these small foot soldiers of colonialism and natural destruction are much larger business owners and people financing this.”

We talked with Pritz as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022/2023 awards contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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In “The Territory,” a network of Brazilian farmers seizes a protected area of the Amazon rainforest, inspiring a young Indigenous leader (Bitaté Uru Eu Wau Wau) and his mentor (Neidinha Bandeira) to fight back in defense of the land and the un-contacted group of natives living deep within the forest. “I had read about the work of the activist at the center of our film had been doing. When I first read about her work it was in the run-up to the elections in Brazil in 2018. So we were hearing this really divisive, inflammatory, violent rhetoric that they would do away with the rainforest and there wouldn’t be anymore land left for Indigenous people. I saw Neidinha as this 60-year old woman boldly, proudly standing up in defense of the rainforest, in defense of Indigenous rights and doing it in parts of the world where almost everyone was against her.”

Pritz acknowledges the various challenges he encountered while filming in Brazil, recalling, “The straight-up cultural differences between myself as a white American and this Indigenous community that had been living with this violent struggle against colonial forces for hundreds of years, generations and generations. Originally the story was more focused on Neidinha, the activist. As it grew, rightly, to incorporate this Indigenous perspective on the land I realized the gulf between myself as an outsider to this community and their lived experience of it. As well as just the understanding of documentary as a form. That was a huge conversation we had to have with the Indigeounous community. What is a documentary? What does it cost to be part of it? The narrative responsibility to do justice to a community you’re not part of is a huge responsibility to give over to someone else.”

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