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Birdwatchers

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
Set among the indigenous Guarani people who eke a harsh, nomadic living on the fringes of the southern Mato Grosso region of the Brazilian rainforest, writer-director-producer Marco Bechis’s absorbing story of struggle and survival carries its committed ethnographic and political passions lightly.

Typical of the film’s wised-up tone is the opening: a menacing crowd of bow-carrying, painted, naked Indians lurking on the riverbank are revealed as mere day-labouring touristic ‘colour’ for visiting ornithologists as the natives put their jeans back on and pocket their readies. The ironies are compounded: technologically, as we see young Guarani Osvaldo (Abrisio da Silva Pedro) using the same bow for hunting game – though pickings are few as the forest is being eroded by commercial farming – and dramatically, as we watch Osvaldo discover the hanging figures of two dead, jeans-clad girls, suicides from his extended family.

The film follows Osvaldo and his group’s move to ancestral land owned by the wary but unwelcoming Moreira (Leonardo Medeiros), and through gently harnessed naturalistic performances, dramatises their conflicts in a broadly docu-drama, rites-of-passage fashion – think Brazilian Ken Loach. There’s humour and surprise – a funny sexual dalliance between Osvaldo’s aunt and the half-witted farmer’s guard (Claudio Santamaria) – but overall, realism dictates that the storm clouds of the tribe’s dismal destiny are constantly visible. It’s a considerable achievement: if not totally dramatically satisfying, it is always emotionally engaging, thought-provoking and informed, and shot (in widescreen by Hélcio Alemão Nagamine) and directed with sympathy, flair and vigour.
Written by Wally Hammond

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 18 September 2009
  • Duration:104 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Marco Bechis
  • Cast:
    • Claudio Santamaria
    • Alicélia Batista Cabreira
    • Chiara Caselli
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