Vídeo nas Aldeias ("Video in the Villages", "VNA") is a school of indigenous filmmakers in Brazil. I say "of" and not "for indigenous filmmakers", because it is a school as in "a group of people sharing the same or similar ideas, methods, or style" (O.E.D.). As an instructor of video, and editor in this school, I have learned a lot from it. One of the most interesting aspects of the group of indigenous filmmakers and other dedicated people that constitute the VNA School is that many of the works coming out of it are frontier productions. The filmmakers, such as Zezinho Yube, Takumã Kuikuro, Paturi Panará, Divino Tserewahu , both them and their works, stand in between worlds.
These Vídeo nas Aldeias filmmakers (and this means doing workshops inside the project, and feeling part of the collective that it is) come from many different backgrounds and indigenous communities. They are Kuikuro, Panará, Ikpeng, Xavante, Ashaninka, Hunikui, Mbya-Guarani, among others. If the project initially began when video-pioneer and indigenist Vincent Carelli put his camera and his effort at the disposal of indigenous communities, later it progressed into a formation center, in which indigenous peoples started using the camera, editing and making their own films. All these indigenous video-makers, working mostly with DV and HDV now, share the same striking characteristic of handling a medium that is seen as coming from the "white people's world", but at the same time being intensely connected with the cultural/economic/daily dynamics of their own communities. This is what I mean by frontier. In my view, what is mostly happening in Brazil is that these filmmakers are not coalescing these two sides of their existence, but are rather being able to shift between them, generating an internal, subjective dialogue. And this does not come without a great deal of anxiety, both for many of them, as debates about it spring in their communities, but also from audiences in the "national society" (the non-Indian world), who often cannot understand why and how an Indian may be holding a camera. This particular reaction has a long history in Brazil, it's the famous "oh, but they’re wearing clothes" effect. The critique of this essentialist, unmistakably violent, and a-historical gaze is one of the many themes that the Vídeo nas Aldeias indigenous filmmakers struggle to incorporate somehow in their works.
The expectation that indigenous peoples may inhabit a fixed identity in Brazil has recently seen a new moment, and indigenous communities are on frontiers in more than one sense.
An intense land conflict in the extreme north of Brazil, at the Raposa Serra do Sol (“Fox/Sun Hills”) reserve occupied center-stage in Brazilian media over the last several months and ended up in a strange resolution. The area borders Venezuela and the English Guiana, and I have been there myself two years ago giving a workshop with a fellow VNA member. The Macuxi, Patamona, Wapixana and Taurepang Indians in the region were constructed in the media as a risk for National Security, as their allegiances were supposedly not clear: “they are controlled by gringos intent on the internationalization of the Amazon”, people will say. As non-indian rice-planters agro-businessmen refused to leave the demarcated territory, the matter climbed up to the Supreme Court. In the end, the Indians kept their land, but they are not allowed to explore it in any way, only the surface belonging to them, the army and any other agency of the State may go in at any time, and furthermore, no other demarcated indigenous territory in Brazil may come into revision from now on.
I mention this in a discussion about Indigenous Media not only because it is timely and has recently affected the lives of every indigenous community in Brazil, but because this image of the untrustworthy frontier Indians, living on the borders with other nations, with other interests, or living on the borders with other technologies than those seen as their own are the same subjects that now find ways to respond, to answer back, and begin to unravel the stereotyped image drawn by colonialism and genocide.
FIRST CLIP: COLLAGE
1. Beginning of "Handling the Camera"
by Takumã Kuikuro et al
Part of the "Indigenous Filmmakers: Kuikuro" DVD
2. Excerpt from "Mokoi Tekoá, Petei Jeguatá"
(Two Villages, One Path)
by Ariel Ortega et al
3. A typical moment in Brazilian mainstream media, with the "much land for few indians" trope (Concerning the demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol).
SECOND CLIP: "For our Grand-Children"
A "making of" of the Panará work with Video.
by Vincent Carelli and Mari Correa.
Part of the "Indigenous Filmmakers: Panará" DVD
Both posted at the Vídeo nas Aldeias Youtube channel, where people can find other works as well. I've added to the channel "Kuikuro present themselves" in its entirety. It's also part of the Kuikuro DVD and it's by Takumã Kuikuro and the Kuikuro Cinema Collective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4r6atkWylk
Vídeo nas Aldeias has a bilingual (new!) website:
And because it has been recently showcased by the Smithsonian Institute, there are also many resources at www.nativenetworks.si.edu
(I thank Carlos Henrique Romão de Siqueira for fruitful conversations leading up to this post.)