This film, winner of the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, provides an immersive journey into the heart of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil. It will have you nodding in amazement at the courage and determination of the indigenous people of that land while you are shaking your head at what is being done by nonnative farmers and illegal settlers determined to take the land for their own use.
The “territory” is the ancestral land of the Uru-eu-wau-wau community. Partially shot by the community, the film relies on verite footage captured over three years as they try to tell their story and expose the effects of deforestation and land grabs by the settlers. The government is not protecting their borders. Already there are more invaders than indigenous in the area. To the indigenous community, the territory is a way of life, not just forests and fields. And as one environmental activist points out, if they lose the territory, they could lose the whole rainforest.
The film also goes behind the scenes to meetings of the settlers as they form an association with plans to build roads and divide up the territory. They will use fires to hasten deforestation and clear the land for farming. Seeing these moves as their chance to start over and prosper, they believe the indigenous already have more land than they need. One man, who has always dreamed of having his own farm, complains that the Uru-eu-wau-wau don’t do anything with their land; they just live there.
The Territory sheds light on the battles being fought in many places around the world. Young leadership committed to raising public awareness through surveillance of settler activity provide some hope that the indigenous group will be able to keep their lands, but it’s clear that they have a big and continual fight ahead of them.