Movie Review: The Territory

The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is home to indigenous communities, wildlife, undiscovered species and now adjacent farmlands. The Territory focuses on an environmental and land dispute affecting some 200 inhabitants, the last of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, who occupy a single continuous area demarcated as a reserve. Under threat from a network of Brazilian farmers and invaders who want to seize part of their protected area through deforestation and settlement, the preservation of their dwindling population and ancient culture seems at risk of making way for cultivation.

Struggling to defend their homeland without the full support of the newly installed government led by Jair Bolsonaro or the police, the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau are forced to regroup and even patrol their territory in a bid to circumvent deforestation and trespassing with a view to taking ownership. Picking up the story with a focus on key individuals, The Territory offers an bird’s eye view of the tense situation without losing sight of on-the-ground opinion.

A roving camera eye, The Territory relays an all-access pass to both sides of this slow-burning political tension as environmental concerns and time-honoured way of life is threatened by the imminent arrival of farmers and settlers. Offering an insider’s perspective, the well-balanced documentary from director Alex Pritz carries the views of the vulnerable people, a fearless activist, a farmer’s association and rogues setting up a logging camp.

territory movie

“If only they knew us – our story.”

The Territory has a western vibration, capturing a state of lawlessness where authorities lack the resources or legislation to act around matters of injustice. While the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau have been infiltrated by modern affectations and even technology, the ancient culture’s harmonious relationship with nature continues, only taking what they need with a view to regeneration. Unable to match the invaders in terms of brute strength, the community’s newly appointed leader brings new tech into their sphere to create awareness and manage surveillance.

Vivid cinematography immerses one in this idyllic setting, contrasting the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau’s respectful relationship with the devastating consequences of the Amazon’s escalation in deforestation. Achieving a cinematic quality, Pritz allows the conflict of the challenging situation to build the drama’s suspense, using the soundtrack to add to the storytelling without losing the documentary’s sense of realism and raw urgency.

An eye-opening and spirited environmental awareness documentary with universal echoes and far-reaching implications around food security and climate change, the film’s restraint captures the struggle for survival and preservation quite masterfully, ending on an unresolved and haunting ellipsis.

The bottom line: Vivid