Owners of the Water: Conflict and Collaboration Over Rivers (2009)

film owners of the waterOwners of the Water: Conflict and Collaboration Over Rivers

Laura R. Graham, David Hernandez Palmer, and Caimi Waiásse, 2009

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 of the Water 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 Warã, 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.
  • People: Brazilian Xavante and Venezuelan Wayuu.,
  • Length: 00:39:00
  • Language: Xavante and Wayuu, with subtitles in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.
  • Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.

This film was screened at the SALSA V Sesquiannual Conference in Oxford/Paris, 2008

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