“The Last Forest”: The Yanomami People Fight for Everyone
Mixing dramatization and documentary, The Last Forest depicts the indigenous Yanomami tribe’s way of life – and their struggle to preserve it.
Brazilian filmmaker Luiz Bolognesi’s latest documentary, The Last Forest, was released on Netflix in 2021. It captures the Yanomami people’s way of life, culture, and myths for all to see. The Yanomami are a group of approximately 35,000 people who live in some 200-250 villages in the Amazon rainforest, on the border between Venezuela and Brazil.
Gold was found in Yanomami territory in the early 1970s and the resulting influx of miners brought disease, alcoholism, and violence. The Yanomami culture was severely endangered.
Luiz Bolognesi’s projects often focus on South America’s original nations. The filmmaker told the InSession Film website how he is interested in knowing the way of life of civilizations that have been there for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans: “They have different ways to understand life, different ways to lead an economy.”
Performances in the film are very naturalistic. This is achieved by the inclusion of the tribe’s shaman, Davi Kopenawa. He plays the main character and writes the film with Bolognesi: “He was the one who would lead the stories, deciding which stories we would tell in the movie. I wanted to make a movie about the invasion of gold miners. But Davi told me they didn’t want to make a movie about them. They desired to make a film about themselves, to show to the world how beautiful they are, how strong they are and, along the way, we would also talk about gold miners.”
Bolognesi started filming four months before the world health emergency triggered by the spread of Covid-19. “Shooting was not a problem. Then, I edited the film during the pandemic. Before the pandemic arrived, the shaman told me it was coming. They said that there is a great disease coming because you are going to the forest and moving the land where we couldn’t, and shouldn’t move it, in order to take gold and metals, because they are there and have to stay there.”
Indigenous communities living in the Amazon fight to protect the rainforest and their ways of life. The number of trees cut down in the Brazilian Amazon in January far exceeded deforestation for the same months last year, according to government satellite data. The area destroyed was five times larger than 2021, the highest January total since records started being collected in 2015.
More than 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day. That is more than 150 acres lost every minute. Around 78 million acres are lost every year! More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest is already gone.
Environmentalists accuse Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro of accelerating deforestation. Trees are cut down for their wood as well as to clear space to plant crops to supply global food companies. Protecting the Amazon is essential to tackle climate change.
Luiz Bolognesi, echoing Davi, said that one of the most important aspects of the film is “To get people from the world engaged in our fight to preserve the forest and our culture. We are not only fighting for the future of our children but the future of every child on the planet. If we destroy the forests as we are doing, climate change will make too many pandemics and we will not have water anymore. People are going to die and suffer a lot. Our fight is the fight of everybody on the planet.”
The Last Forest earned the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.