Alex Pritz interview: ‘The Territory’ director

There has been a huge tone shift for indigenous communities across Brazil since Alex Pritz completed filming his documentary, “The Territory.” This has come specifically from former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeating the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in last October’s election. “While it’s not an overtly political film, you see the effects of Bolsonaro’s policies and his political speech has on these people and how that is converted into violence really quickly,” Pritz tells Gold Derby during our recent Meet the Experts: Film Documentary panel (watch the exclusive video interview above).

Lula has made many promises to the indigenous communities of Brazil and he’s already started a new Ministry of Indigenous Affairs along with having a record number of indigenous women in the new Congress. “We’re really looking to the future and looking for ways that we can support the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau in building something better for the next generation.”

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“The Territory,” from National Geographic Films and is currently available to stream on Disney+, examines the challenges that Brazil’s rainforest-based indigenous population have been facing in recent years. Pritz does this by focusing on the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people and their designated territory that’s supposed to be protected but has been encroached upon by settlers and deforestation. Pritz focuses on a young leader of the tribe, Bitaté, and an activist, Neidinha Bandeira, who has spent decades working as an advocate for these communities. He also looks at the perspectives of several people who are hoping to clear out and live on the protected land. The film recently made the shortlist for this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

In addition to the political rhetoric, a huge factor in people’s desire to acquire parts of protected lands comes from increased religiosity in the country, specifically from evangelical Christianity. Pritz says that this comes from a long tradition of discovery that dates back to the Catholic Church. “That’s one of the tings that a lot of native and indigenous groups in Brazil have been trying to fight against; this idea that land is somehow empty and blank until you come along and colonize it and bring the church into that land and that’s when it becomes a habitable place, a civilized place.”

Despite having been around for centuries, there’s still a lot of misconceptions that many Brazilians have toward the native people, which Bolsonaro used to his benefit. “He uses this term, ‘iPhone Indian,’ meaning it’s a way to denigrate indigenous people and strip them of their identity, meaning if you engage with technology, if you have a cell phone, you can no longer claim access your indigenous identity.” He’s does find himself inspired by the young people in the film, including an indigenous 25-year-old executive producer of the film, and how they refuse this false binary. “They say, we are technologically advanced. We are media savvy and politically sophisticated and we’re in touch with our traditional culture and we’re using these tools to defend our land and our people.”

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UPLOADED Jan 12, 2023 3:43 pm