FILM REVIEW: This Land is our Land – Sheffield DocFest

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Directors: Isael Maxakali, Sueli Maxakali, Carolina Canguçu, Roberto Romero

Awarded the Best Film in Sheffield DocFest’s International Competition Brazilian Indigenous filmmakers Isael and Sueli Maxakali along with Carolina Canguçu, Roberto Romero highlight the misery and hardship of the Tikmun’un people. And they make no bones about blaming it on the destructive results of so-called ‘development’. The white invasion not only saw the end of the area’s forestry but took the Tikmun’un’s land and livelihoods out of pure greed.

The film is interspersed with chants by shamans that talk of the spirits who still inhabit the area and, it is believed, will wreak vengeance on the invading farmers. The Tikmun’un firmly believe that “The earth is our kin. Our ancestors emerged from it. The earth is our mother.” The documentary’s narrative also explains their night and day mythology.

In a filmed meeting, there is a list on the whiteboard of those ‘killed like dogs’ by the white settlers. They blame the government for not enforcing the law in these cases while if they committed opposing acts of violence, they would face the death penalty. The meeting turns into a ritualistic chant about getting this land back. Afterwards, they visit the grave of a victim whose corpse was buried where it was dumped by the white perpetrators. The filmmakers purpose, therefore, is to show the powers that be the horror that is taking place in a region outside all judiciary.

The film visits a town known as ‘Expensive Armadillo’ where the local white residents appear to blatantly insult the group. Their accusations of theft hardly compare to the evident homicide that has been taking place for years. Another sad story notes a another victim of the conflict who had been run over by a truck and died. In defiance, the film captures the painting of the phrase THIS LAND IS OURS as a testimony to the tragedy.

The audience is shown the former boundaries which are now farmland, areas which the Tikmun’un still believe is the land of their ancestors and should be theirs by right to live in. An angry cowboy is almost comically furious that filming was taking place as this area would have been a thick forest before the settlers’ created deforestation and used the land to breed cows.

There is a very moving song of hunger and looking back at life before the white settlers arrived and the Indigenous Tikmun’un sing out THIS LAND IS OUR LAND for all to hear. Maxakalis, Canguçu and Romero have made a film that is a passionate protest against the injustice that has been and continues to be done here.

Reviewed on 13th June 2021 at Sheffield DocFest

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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