EXCLUSIVE: The murder of a British journalist and his Indigenous guide earlier this month in Brazil’s Amazon underscores the extreme peril involved in trying to protect the rainforest.
The U.S. State Department has condemned the killings of Dom Phillips and his guide Bruno Pereira, saying the men “were murdered for supporting conservation of the rainforest and native peoples there.”
Phillips and Pereira are not the first to die in the ongoing conflict over the Amazon rainforest, which has pitted Indigenous people with the legal right to the land against loggers, miners, farmers and illegal settlers encroaching further upon the Amazon with every passing day.
The life and death struggle, which holds vital ramifications for global climate change, comes into focus in the National Geographic documentary The Territory, directed by Alex Pritz. Pritz went on the ground with members of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe and their adversaries.
“With awe-inspiring cinematography showcasing the titular landscape and richly textured sound design, the film takes audiences deep into the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau community and provides unprecedented access to the farmers and settlers illegally burning and clearing the protected Indigenous land,” notes a summary of the film. “Partially shot by the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people, the film relies on vérité footage captured over three years as the community risks their lives to set up their own news media team in the hopes of exposing the truth.”
Picturehouse will release The Territory in select North American cities on Friday, August 19, including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle, and Austin, Texas, with a nationwide rollout following. The film has won numerous prizes at festivals around the world, among them the audience award for World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as a Sundance special jury award for Documentary Craft.
Sundance juror Patrick Gaspard called the film, “A singular achievement of cinematic craft,” writing, “the film thrills with a soaring score, sound design, skillful editing and cinematography, all in support of a story that is both intimate and epic. It allows contemplation of this existential crisis from multiple perspectives.”
The Territory is produced by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky of Protozoa Pictures, Oscar nominee Sigrid Dyekjær (The Cave), Will N. Miller, Gabriel Uchida, Lizzie Gillett, and Pritz. Indigenous activist Txai Suruí serves as an executive producer on the film. Carlos Rojas Felice edited the documentary; Katya Mihailova composed the film’s original score.
The Territory was made by Documist, Associação Jupaú do Povo Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, Real Lava, Passion Pictures and Protozoa Pictures, in association with TIME Studios and XTR with backing from Luminate and Doc Society.
“Alongside the film’s theatrical release, a multiyear impact campaign will launch in support of Indigenous land defenders across the Amazon,” the filmmakers said. “The campaign will focus on amplifying the voices of Indigenous media creators, strengthening legal protections for Indigenous territories, and advancing international legislation and resourcing to combat illegal deforestation. The impact campaign is led by Documist, alongside Think-Film Impact Production and a broad network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners.”
Watch the trailer for the film above.