The Territory- DOC NYC Film Festival
November 18th, 2022
MOVIE: THE TERRITORY
DIRECTED BY: ALEX PRITZ
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 1/2 STARS (Out of 4)
The story of the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon rain forest represents a continuing fight to save the planet. That is, in part, Alex Pritz’s perspective in his new documentary The Territory. As an Earth Scientist, Pritz turned to filmmaking to potentially have even greater impact by opening our eyes to some of the troubles facing our planet. Combining efforts with National Geographic Documentary Films, Pritz has presented a unique and broad perspective on the deforestation of the Uru-eu-wau-way community. The indigenous people within this region are fighting to save their own land but are equally combating forces that could affect all of us.
The film begins with some disturbing statistics: In the 1980s this community of thousands was offered gifts for their land only to see their population dwindle due to diseases brought by outsiders. This once insular people are now surrounded by farmlands that was previously part of the rainforest. Pritz takes us into the world of community leaders trying to protect their land. Much of the footage of the destroyed forest was taken using a drone owned by one of the locals. How they obtained this and other camera equipment is not explained in the film. Yet it is clear that what they are trying to do is inform the government and the outside world about what they are witnessing around them. They claim they’ve been terrorized by invasions and assassinations that are government caused.
What is interesting about Pritz’s approach to this film though is that he also presents the perspective of those actually in charge of clearing out these forests. They’ve been told by the government that logging and burning down the region is actually good for Brazil. That doing so helps move the country forward, as if the Uru-eu-wau-wau community is a backwards, anti-change group of people. In fact, Pritz shows us the diverse quality of these people. On the one hand, they live among the trees, rivers, and wildlife and also use bows and arrows to potentially ward off the enemy. Yet, they’re also technologically savvy and even a bit advanced compared to the men in charge of deforestation. It’s an interesting contrast that says a lot about our notions of indigenous people in the 21st Century and the reality that is far removed from some of those earlier perceptions.
Pritz also does a nice job of detailing who the leaders within the indigenous community are, including local 18-year-old Bitate who seems to have forest smarts as well as technical camera abilities. During the film, one local fighter is given a death threat while another is murdered. Troubles don’t stop as the region is effected, like we all have been, by the COVID pandemic which threatened to wipe out even more of this population than has already occurred.
If I have any quibble with the film it is that the editing at times jumps a bit much between the community and the “invaders” – many of whom claim the land as their own. The lines appear almost blurred between them which may in fact be Pritz’s point. Let those at the lower rungs of society fight it out while the government makes its own one-sided proclamations.
Ultimately, it’s very clear where Pritz’s allegiances are here and it’s very difficult to begrudge him for that. He is, after all, a proponent of saving the planet. The Territory takes us into the heart of where the destruction is occurring and that might actually save all of us.
THE TERRITORY IS CURRENTLY PLAYING AS PART OF DOC NYC. IT CAN BE STREAMED THROUGH THE FESTIVAL UNTIL NOVEMBER 27TH AT DOCNYC.NET. IT WILL PREMIERE ON NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL ON DECEMBER 1ST AND WILL STREAM ON DECEMBER 2ND ON DISNEY+.
3 1/2 STARS
Written by: Dan Pal