Birdwatchers Marco Bechis
Published Feb 03, 2011In the opening scene of this didactically powered Brazilian import, a group of boating tourists ― appropriately watching birds ― come across a band of naked, painted natives, holding spears and handmade bows and arrows. After the tourists speed off excitedly, the natives skip off to a Ford pick-up, grab a wad of cash from a sightseeing tour organizer, toss on their T-shirts and jeans and head back to their reservation.
While notably heavy-handed, this clever opening sets the stage for a parable of thwarted expectation and cultural disceptation. Unfortunately, what unfolds is the opposite of defied expectations, instead taking on an aggressively familiar and pious air that culminates with a final act title card that directs the viewer to a website where they can get involved with the plight of the Guarani Indians, presumably by clicking on a "like" placard and sharing their "awareness" with others.
After detailing some of the Guarani's day-to-day existence, chiefly endemic depression and mixed attitudes about tradition versus modern influence, two teenagers commit suicide, leading to a collective movement of reclaiming land off the reservation. Problem is, said land is adjacent to a wealthy landowner/farmer none too happy about his new neighbours, especially given their tendency to slaughter his cattle and rapidly grow in population.
In an effort to further victimize the people and represent a sovereign attitude, Bechis often equates native expansion to that of pestilence and infestation, having the Guaranis grow in numbers in each scene, hunting the land bare. The farmers and locals respond to this by spraying them with airborne pesticides and targeting the "queen bee" in an effort to rid their land of this spreading plague.
Other biases prevalent in this low-key, fatalistic reverse variation on Straw Dogs is that of gentle manipulation and modernization by opportunistic "whites," underpaying the natives for manual labour and coaxing them into discomforting sexual scenarios.
If it weren't for all this preaching and laboured interaction, the slow-building tension could have compensated for the cheesy dialogue and flat performances, making for a moderately effective thriller with a message. But it's hard not to feel a little dirty and manipulated after having someone force their solipsism on you for an hour-and-a-half. (Mongrel Media)