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Audiovisual literacy across real worlds: (Un)learning through recent indigenous-focused films in Brazil

2013/10/11

jamilleJamille Pinheiro Dias Ph.D. candidate in Modern LanguagesUniversity of São Paulo

In times of bloody land disputes between indigenous groups and cattle ranchers, loggers, miners and agribusiness lobbyists supported by federal authorities, the teaching of indigenous history and culture – made compulsory in Brazil by the Law 11.645/2008 – should be regarded as one of the most pressing issues in the curriculum in the country. In this gloomy and paradoxical scenario, there are indigenous-focused films that might enable viewers to look critically at the ways in which indigenous peoples are portrayed in mainstream media.

This presentation will address some of the challenges faced by, and possibilities brought about by, “The Hyperwomen” (2011) and “Xapiri” (2012), two award-winning pictures shot among specific communities of the Carib-speaking Kuikuro – inhabiting the upper reaches of the Xingu River in Mato Grosso – and the Tupi-speaking Yanomami – living in Roraima, in the Northwest Amazon. How do these films featuring shamanism and ritual explore territories that move beyond ethnographic documentary bounds, pointing to something other than fiction or nonfiction modes?

Additionally, to what extent can they crosscut bodily senses and conceptual frameworks in a way that might help one unlearn assumptions and expectations forged by national and developmentalist concerns? Rather than explain shamanism and ritual, “The Hyperwomen” and “Xapiri” translate in both content and form the dynamics of such Amerindian practices through experimentation with the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible. Each in its own particular way, these films engage us with different “real worlds” rather than “imaginary ways of ‘seeing the world'” (Viveiros de Castro 2004), providing us with an opportunity to rethink and reframe audiovisual literacy in relation to indigenous peoples in the 21st century.

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