Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: Film & Festival, January 21, 2010.
Source URL (Archive.org): http://filmandfestivals.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1035:jose-padilhas-new-doc-to-premiere-at-sundance&catid=2:festivals&Itemid=54

Jose Padilha's new doc to premiere at Sundance

Written by Chris Patmore

SECRETS OF THE TRIBE, Jose Padilha's powerful new documentary has been selected to screen in competition in the World Cinema section at the Sundance Film Festival, where it will have its world premiere on January 22.

Tribal warfare in the academic jungle.

What happens when Western anthropologists descend on the Amazon and proceed to make one of the last 'unacculturated tribes' on the planet, the Yanomami Indians, the most exhaustively filmed and studied tribe on the planet? The film is an acute study of the clashing of these two tribes, the wars amongst them and it uncovers horrendous secrets long buried.

The 1960s. Seeking adventure, they thrust themselves into dark, mysterious places on the planet… They were young men, fresh out of college, seeking change and adventure. The anthropologists from France and America. They rejected their own cultures' rites of passage, instead being drawn to exotic climes to make their own. They took a PhD or a film camera and a sense of academic mission with them. They sought out dangerous and unknown tribes to live with and study. They broke with their own cultures, in order to lose themselves or find themselves in others.

How could ‘science' go so wrong?

The field of anthropology goes under the magnifying glass in this fiery investigation of the seminal research on Yanomami Indians. In the 1960s and '70s, a steady stream of anthropologists filed into the Amazon Basin to observe this "virgin" society untouched by modern life. Thirty years later, the events surrounding this infiltration have become a scandalous tale of academic ethics and infighting. The origins of violence and war and the accuracy of data gathering are hotly debated among the scholarly clan. Soon these disputes take on the tones of a Heart of Darkness as they descend into stories of sexual and medical violation. Director José Padilha brilliantly employs two provocative strategies to raise unsettling questions about the boundaries of cultural encounters. He allows Professors accused of heinous activities to defend themselves, and the Yanomami to represent their side of the story. As this riveting excavation deconstructs anthropology's colonial legacy, it challenges our society's myths of objectivity and questions the very reason for this discipline to exist.

The film took over seven years to make. From getting access to the elusive main characters, to pulling in hundreds of hours of archive footage from the '60s, and getting and keeping the money to finance it, the production has been a mammoth job.

SECRETS OF THE TRIBE is an English/Brasilian/French co-production. A Stampede/Zazen film with Avenue B. Co-produced by BBC Storyville and HBO Documentary Films in association with Screen East, Impact Partners, DER, YLE, SBS and DR2.