DER Documentary

From Honey to Ashes

From Honey to Ashes

by Lucas Bessire
color, 47 min, 2006




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In March 2004, one of the world's last voluntarily isolated groups of hunter-gatherers walked out of the forest in northern Paraguay, fleeing ranchers' bulldozers. They formed a new village with their more settled relatives, where they confronted the complexities of learning how to become "Ayoreo Indians" and more critically, how to survive in a rapidly changing world.

This documentary provides an intimate portrait of a divided community four months after this historical event, and their efforts to chart a collective future in a context shaped by deforestation, NGO activity, anthropologists and evangelical Christianity. Self-consciously engaging a history of ethnographic representations and tropes of "first contact," the reflexive video uses the filmmaker's narration to reflect on the experiences and confusions of a process that remains ultimately opaque for the "new people," for their relatives, and for the anthropologist.

This film contributes to the visual anthropology of lowland South America by putting a human face to critical questions about "contact," "indigeneity" and the ways certain narrow ideas of "modernity" continue to be presented as the only options for Native peoples in the Gran Chaco and beyond.


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Delhi International Ethnographic Film Festival, India, 2008
"Ownership and Appropriation," Joint Conference of the ASA, the ASAANZ and the AAS, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2008
Native American Film + Video Festival, New York, 2009
Worldfilm 2009-Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, Estonia, 2009
Days of Ethnographic Film, Slovenia, 2009
Ethnocineca 2009, Wein, Austria
Latin American Studies Association Film Festival, Argentina, 2009
Most Inspirational, The Archaeology Channel Film Festival, Eugene, OR, 2009
Espressofilm festival, Vienna, Austria, 2010
Latin American Film Festival, Finland, 2010

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