Synopsis

CONTACTED, tells the story of the Waoranis settlements of Bameno and Boanamo, located deep in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. Through the eyes of the artist, explorer and director Varial,* the film focuses on the Baihua family, a community of more than a hundred people, and chronicles their daily activities including everything from hunting to ritual ceremonies. It also casts a critical eye on the idea of "contact," revealing the many changes that have been visited on the infrastructure and superstructure of this and other indigenous communities since the arrival of the first missionaries in the 1950s, and calls attention to the responsibilities that we in the so-called "developed" societies have regarding these last remaining autonomous indigenous tribes and the destruction of their pristine territory. In his second film, Varial once again challenges the mental image of the world that we dogmatically cling to.





Crédits

DIRECTOR AND CINEMATOGRAPHER Varial* Cédric Houin
SCREENPLAY Varial*, Cyril Lochon, Bianca Laliberté
Production Varial*Studio, Victorine Sentilhes, Andresa Nunes
Special Collaboration ARSENAL Montréal – Contemporary Art
Delegate Production Victorine Sentilhes
Editing Cyril Lochon
Original Score David Drury
Associate Producers Cyril Lochon, David Drury, Pierre Trahan



Expositions



CONTACTED TRIBES - the Bameno people
A Multiplateform Art Journey
Film - Installations - Photography - Music - Book

The tale of the Bameno people is one of a place where men live in community, and where myriad forms of animal and plant life come together to form a lush microcosm. The Waorani people, belonging to the Kamperi clan, are among the Amazon's indigenous communities. They are at the heart of a centuries-long struggle to protect the Amazon, their own territory, the OMÉ and their way of life. However, the nature of this struggle has changed as have the relationships between this family's history and that of the outside world.

The struggle of the Baihua Family (also referred to in this project as the Kamperi Clan—whose oldest shaman is Kemperi Baihua), the last Waorani tribe living in their own ancestral environment, is part of a larger struggle: that of indigenous peoples worldwide. There are approximately 370 million indigenous people in the world. The majority of their homelands have been devastated by industrial activities such as logging, mining, oil exploitation, mass tourism, etc., and they continue to be subjected to increasingly aggressive pressures. Their resistance contributes to the preservation of the Earth’s natural areas. And in this regard, bearing witness to their plight may strengthen the cause of environmental protection worldwide.

The Baihua family's daily struggle is derived from their “contacted tribe” status. We are seeking to understand against whom or what this struggle is being fought, and how the nature of the struggle itself is transforming the Kamperi clan’s way of life. Archival sources made available to us clearly demonstrate that mass media portrayals of the Waorani clan of Kamperi perpetuate a myth about them: that the they are "uncontacted," or in other words, "primitive" as described by the broadcast network NBC—people who live at the same speed and with same means as prehistoric men, finding continuity in a pure form of essentialism. "They are closer to the stone age than the modern age," according to journalist Ann Curry.

The images we have filmed illustrate the scope of the changes to the tribe's life that have taken place starting with their first contact with the Western world. The camera reveals the presence and use of Western objects (TVs, computers, radios, rifles, clothing, footwear, boat engines, etc.) juxtaposed against traditional, ancestral practices (community hunting and fishing and their techniques, shamanism, etc.) and the use of traditional objects (spears, blowguns, bows and arrows, dwellings, canoes and other tools). The life of the Kamperi clan is focused on both the maintenance of a traditional lifestyle and the inclusion of new practices of "Western" origins. For our part, we refuse to perpetuate the myth of the primitive man, as it reduces the real issues concerning the Waorani to the level of mere spectacle.

The primary issue is, undoubtedly, one of territory: the "OMÉ." This territory is endangered by the current state of economic and political affairs in Ecuador: the government is doing nothing to counter territorial destruction by oil-based and other industries. The Waorani are affected every day by political decisions taken at the national and international levels and want to limit the adverse effects of such decisions. We are absolutely certain that their traditional lifestyle has already begun a slow process of disintegration. They are working to protect their territory and defend their traditions and culture.

The Waorani no longer defend their territory with blowguns as they used to. They now understand how to make use of photographic images, how to save minimal amounts of money, what the nature and functions of tourism are and how to use "Western" tools such as weapons for strategic defense. They grasp the relevance of either using or being featured in digital and television media, modes of expression inherent to a new shared virtual arena. In a series of interviews, Penti, the village chief, explains what he considers to be the main issues within his territory. Taken together, these videos appear as an incessant repetition of the same vital message: members of the Kamperi clan want to protect their territory in order to lead a life of freedom.

The intelligence of the clan’s members becomes self-evident. Their actions arise out of a need for their intelligence to be recognized as the intelligence of necessity. They have an amazing capacity for reconciliation and for acceptance of the conditions inherent to their situation. They adopt aspects of our language and our way of life despite the risk of adverse effects to their own way of life, which they are determined to preserve. But the struggle of the Waorani, in its current form, will require the acquisition of new weapons to face new adversaries (for example, industrial and communication titans). Dramatic representations of their culture and tourism are some of the most important new weapons in the Kamperi Clan's arsenal. The preservation of traditional rituals has become a necessity as touristic representations of the clan's culture have become important to local tourism. Tourism is now the clan's primary source of income, and some of its members leave the jungle for the city in order to study at Ecuadorian tourism schools.

A thoughtful consideration of dramatizations of the clan's culture must necessarily involve a reflection on the effects caused by such practices! We can, like them, ask whether their impact is positive, but how can we be sure? Indeed, this strategy aimed at strengthening the community also has the effect of transforming it through the incorporation of objects and techniques of "foreign" origin and the arrival of increasingly significant numbers of outsiders. This situation, while creating new opportunities on the one hand, also creates a new set of concerns on the other.

Such a state of affairs necessarily leads us on a search for new horizons of thought. Can a representation of the "other" actually do justice to reality, the "other's" reality? We are not attempting to gain an exclusive perspective on the Waorani, but rather to share in the kinds of discourse and vision that are inherent to the creative process. Could art help in this regard? In reality, such sharing is part of a vision for documentary practices to be carried out for and by the Waorani. Cameras and computers are technologies that already have an established presence in the Bameno territory. How can the use of such technologies by locals create a kind of symbiosis with our own use of the same technologies, within the context of producing this very content? In the same vein, Internet will likely soon be available in the city of Bameno, a development that would open up a whole other range of possibilities...











"Message from Penti Baihua, Son of Awa Baihua, Bameno chief leader and Coordinator of Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani

My name is Penti Baihua. My people, the Huaorani, have lived in the Amazon Rainforest, in the area known as Yasuni, since before the arrival of the European peoples in the Americas, since before the country of Ecuador was created. We call the rainforest “omede.” We care for her because she gives us everything: food, water, medicine, shelter, and more. She gives us life and our way of life. Without the forest, we could not survive.

My father is Ahua. He is a great warrior, he defended our Huaorani territory with spears. Now I must defend our territory and the forest, omede, with documents and law, speaking Spanish, and travelling far away like the harpy eagle.

I want to thank my friend Bopo for bringing a message that needs to be included in your Yasuni Green Gold campaign. I have two very important things to say:

1. The first thing I want to say is that the oil in the place known as “ITT” – and in all of the area now known as “The Intangible Zone” – must stay in the ground. (The Intangible Zone is a 758,051-hectare area of forest in the Yasuni area, which has which has been designated by the government as a conservation area, off-limits to oil companies and loggers, since 1999. It includes most of the ITT, and additional lands.) The oil must stay in the ground in the ITT and The Intangible Zone because it is our home. If the oil companies destroy all of Yasuni, where will we live?

Since the arrival of the first oil company, Texaco (now part of Chevron), the Huaorani people have suffered many injuries and violations of our human rights. Our traditional territory has been invaded by outsiders who clear the forest, scare away the animals, and contaminate waters, soils, and air. New diseases have sickened and even killed members of our families, and we have been told that our Huaorani culture is savage and sinful, and that the Huaorani people must change and abandon our traditions and way of life.

But we do not want our Huaorani culture and life to disappear. In my community, Bameno, and in other communities in Yasuni, we are proud to live as Huaorani, in harmony with our rainforest environment. We want our children, and our children’s children, to continue to enjoy the benefits of our culture and way of life. Our shaman, Kemperi, has explained why we do not want more oil companies to come, in a message to the peoples who live where the oil companies come from: “My message is that we are living here. We are living bien, in a good way. No more [oil] companies should come, because already there are enough…. Many companies want to enter, everywhere. But they do not help; they have come to damage the forest. Instead of going hunting, they cut down trees to make paths. Instead of caring for [the forest], they destroy. Where the company lives, it smells nasty; the animals hide; and when the river rises, the manioc and plantain in the low areas have problems. We respect the environment where we live. We like the tourists because they come, and go away. When the company comes, it does not want to leave. Now [the company] is in the habit of offering many things; it says that it comes to do business, but then it makes itself into the owner. Where the company has left its environment, we cannot return. It stays bad. Something must remain for us. Without territory, we cannot live. If they destroy everything, where will we live? We do not want more companies, or more roads. We want to live like Huaorani, we want others to respect our culture.”

2. The second thing I want to say, that I want all of you to understand, is that we, the Yasuni Huaorani who live in the Intangible Zone, are working to defend the forest and our human rights. We are thankful that there is a lot of national and international concern for Yasuni, that so many people want to protect the rainforest that is our home. But we are concerned because so many people in government agencies and nongovernmental organizations want to negotiate and make decisions about Yasuni, without taking us and our rights into account. We now fear for our right to continue to live in freedom, as Huaorani, in our ancestral lands.

My community, Bameno, shares The Intangible Zone with two other communities of ‘contacted’ Huaorani, Bowanamo and Gabaro, and with other Huaorani families who live in voluntary isolation in the forest. The three communities of ‘contacted’ Huaorani (Bameno, Bowanamo and Gabaro) are working together, as communities, to protect the ITT area and the entire Intangible Zone, and the right of our uncontacted neighbors to be left alone. We call ourselves Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani, We Defend Our Huaorani Territory, and we have made very specific proposals to the government of Ecuador for how we can work together to protect human rights and the environment in The Intangible Zone. We call upon the government of Ecuador to hear our voice and respect our rights, including our land rights. We call upon them to refrain from sending their military or other functionaries to our territory to live with us as police, or to visit our communities without our consent.

Finally, we invite the representatives of the government of Ecuador, the government of Coca, and the other governments that are present tonight, as well as the Yasuni Green Gold campaign and other NGOs and individuals who are present, to engage in a dialogue with us. We ask that you tell us about your work and proposals for ITT and Yasuni, and that you support us - the local Huaorani communities who are fighting to protect our ancestral lands.

Thank you for coming tonight, and for listening to my message on behalf of the Yasuni Huaorani who live in The Intangible Zone, Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani."

+ INFOS source






In 2013 Varial* Cédric Houin,, photographer and director decided to embark on a journey to the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador and reach the most remote Waorani village of Bameno, home to some of the last hunter-gatherers, whose territory is threatened by Big Oil.

Equipped with photographic, video and sound equipment, he travelled by land from the city of El Coca and then took a two-day boat trip on the Cononaco River to reach Bameno. He spent a month documenting the life of these last warriors, now prisoners of recent political decisions.

What he discovered during these weeks spent with the 80 members of the Baihua family is their level of modernity and adaptability to the modern world, as well as the real challenges they face to protect their territory.

Written from an intimate and immersive angle, the project celebrates the beauty and simplicity of these ancient cultures, generally unknown to the world, without concealing the modern issues faced by these men and women. Presented as a hybrid experience, it offers viewers a different vision of a tribe that, perhaps incorrectly, they already think they know.







V arial and Penti

Varial* aka Cédric Houin is a visual artist, creative director, photographer, filmmaker, explorer and musician. He has received more than 30 awards including the 1st prize in the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. He is supported by Nikon Canada and Impossible Project. Varial*'s work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and websites including the New York Times Lens blog, the BBC, Smithsonian, and National Geographic.

His 2013 film “Wakhan” about the yak-herding, yurt-dwelling Wakhi and Kyrgyz nomads of remote northern Afghanistan won the Best First or Second Documentary film award at RVCQ 2014

His personal journey has been an on-going quest for identity and self-expression. Heeding his grandmother's words, “Go where you want, die where you must," Cédric started traveling alone at an early age. His voyages of deep self-discovery were off the tourist route and the modern grid, and he immersed himself in the world's most remote and magical landscapes, ecosystems and cultures. In 2003, he became Varial*, the visual artist. For the last 11 years he has been running his own creative and image studio in Montreal, collaborating with big-name musicians, designers, art centers and festivals.

In 2010, Varial* devoted himself to exploration and doing what he can to make people aware of and care about the world's fast-disappearing bio-cultural diversity. He has provocatively pushed the limits of photo-journalism and documentary film with luminous, multi-layered images of Patagonia, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Borneo, Algeria, India, Mexico, the great American Deserts and the Canadian Rockies.

His approach to documentary filmmaking is immersive, physical, lyrical, spiritual and psychedelic. He has put his artistic prowess in the service of the planet.

Film production

Victorine Sentilhes
Contact

Varial Cédric Houin
Contact



Crédits

CREATIVE DIRECTOR, DIRECTOR AND CINEMATOGRAPHER Varial* Cédric Houin

Producer Varial*Studio
Production Delegate Victorine Sentilhes
Original Music David Drury
Website Music Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Website departement.ca











DISCOVER PREVIOUS VARIAL* PROJECT, THE AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY

Wakhan, an Other Afghanistan