Back in 2001, I met in Santarém, a small town on the bank of the Amazon river, a young lawyer from São Paulo who had quit his job in the Brazilian megalopolis to settle in the rain-forest. He was divorced and had a son, who spent with him his school vacations. Every week, he went by boat to the indigenous villages in the swampy area to buy and exchange goods with them, so that he could sell them to tourists in the small shop he had set up in town. Seeing last night’s Novocine’s inauguration movie, Xingu, I couldn’t but recall the story of this Paulista lawyer who would become my friend for a few days in a remote spot of the Brazilian North.
In 1943, in the middle of Getúlio Varga’s Estado Novo of maximum intervention of the State in the economy and the exacerbation of nationalism, it was decided to open new lands to the West to develop economically and industrially the country. Rain forests in the Amazonia and especially in the Matto Grosso were the objective. Three educated brothers, the Villas-Bôas (Cláudio, Orlando and Bernardo), joined the expedition as laborers, to end up establishing contact with the Xingu river’s indios. The film is based on real and historical facts, and shows their efforts to protect indios from the “national progress” culminating with the creation of the Indigenous national park in 1961. More interested in the big picture as a hagiography of the protagonists’ epic story, the film doesn’t dig deep enough in the emotional and sexual relationships established by the brothers and the Indians, although it suggests some of the gray areas of the brothers’ Mission.