DER Documentary

Owners of the Water: Conflict and Collaboration Over Rivers ("ö Tede'wa")

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by Laura R. Graham, David Hernández Palmar, Caimi Waiásse
color, 34 min, 2009
with subtitles in English, Spanish, or Portuguese

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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All proceeds from sales of this film will be donated to Cultural Survival for Xavante Projects.

A unique collaboration between two indigenous filmmakers and an anthropologist, Owners of the Water is a compelling documentary with groundbreaking ethnographic imagery. A central Brazilian Xavante, a Wayuu from Venezuela, and a US anthropologist explore an indigenous campaign to protect a river from devastating effects of uncontrolled Amazonian soy cultivation. Xavante and Wayuu are nationally and internationally prominent political actors and both face challenges over water.

Owners highlights a civic protest showing strategic use of culture to bring attention to deforestation and excessive use of agritoxins in unregulated soy cultivation. The film features a diversity of Xavante opinions and evidence that non-indigenous members of the local population both support and oppose indigenous demands. The film showcases indigenous efforts to build networks among different native peoples and across nations.

The film results from long collaboration between anthropologist Laura Graham and Xavante and more recent collaboration with Wayuu. The Association Xavante Wară, a Xavante organization that promotes indigenous knowledge and ways of living in the central Brazilian cerrado (a spiritually and materially integrated space that Xavante know as 'ro) and conservation of this unique environment, invited Graham to tell the story of its campaign to save the Rio das Mortes. David Hernández Palmar, a Wayuu (Iipuana clan) from Venezuela, accompanied Graham to meet the Xavante and learn about their struggles over water. After the trip the Xavante and Wayuu filmmakers and the anthropologist made this film based on the ethnographic footage of their intercultural encounters.

“…the scope of Owners of the Water goes well beyond the somewhat narrow focus of past documentaries, exposing the viewer to a diversity of facts, images and viewpoints. Owners of the Water deserves credit for tracing cutting edge indigenous issues in the Amazon.” — Jonathan C. Bergman, Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources
Owners of the Water will be of interest to professors teaching courses on the indigenous peoples of Latin America as well as on the anthropology of protest movements, applied anthropology, and ecological anthropology. Visual anthropologists will find that it is a useful model for incorporating the voices and the aesthetics of the people with whom we work, both in front of and behind the camera… This film could serve as an inspiration to indigenous communities across Brazil and the wider world to use digital technologies in the struggle to maintain the ecosystems on which they depend.” — Brian Brazeal, American Anthropologist, Vol. 114, No. 1

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
International Meeting of the Latin American Sociology Association, Brazil 2011
Honorable Mention Award for Advocacy, Montana CINE International Film Festival, 2011
Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, Germany, 2010
Bioneers Moving Image Festival, New Mexico, 2010
American Anthropological Association/Society for Visual Anthropology Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2010
International Unseen Film "Filme Sozialak"" Festival, Bilbao, Spain, 2010
"Visual Representation of Crisis through Ethnographic Film," EASA Biennial Conference, Ireland, 2010
Contro-Sguardi: International Anthropological Film Festival, Perugia, Italy, 2010
Honorable Mention - Best Environmental Documentary, XXVII Festival de Cine de Bogotá, Colombia, 2010

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Related Resources
Article: Effects of Modernization on the Xavante, by filmmaker Laura Graham

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The Lost Water
Running Out of Time

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