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Portrait of an indigenous people of the Amazon

Ex-Pajé. | Foto © Pedro J. Marquez

Ex-Pajé (Ex-Shaman), the second feature film by scriptwriter and director Luiz Bolognesi, blurs the line between documentary and fiction with a portrait of the daily lives of the Suruí Paiter, a people from the interior of the Amazon region.

By Camila Gonzatto

The storyline focuses on the protagonist Perpera. He was twenty years old when his people first came into contact with whites in the late 1960s. At that time he was a pajé, a spiritual leader and responsible for prayer and communication with spirits and for the healing of illnesses. “People used go to the pajé; today they take aspirin”, Perpera says in the first minutes of the film.

The Suruí Paiter today still live in the same region, but their way of life has been undergoing profound changes: over the years they have gained access to electricity, electronics and other amenities of modern and urban life. At the same time, they have gradually lost their original spirituality: instead of cultivating their faith, they are converting to evangelical Christianity, and so little by little their tradition is disappearing.

The film was developed together with the indigenous people. It shows them at work in the fields, at meals, their encounters in church, how they tell the young stories, their problems with illegal logging by timber companies on their protected territory. “Every night we discussed what we would film the next day. Sometimes we filmed what they wanted to do; sometimes they told us what had happened in the weeks before, and we decided to re-enact it fictionally”, explains Bolognesi. Then the main characters played themselves. “I asked them to show me what had happened and what they felt, and we recorded the scenes”, he says.