19 March 2021
To coincide with International Day of Forests (21 March), ‘The Last Forest’ documentary becoming the only Brazilian feature film shortlisted for the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama exhibition sends a powerful message to the world about the importance of environmental protection.
‘The Last Forest’, known internationally by its Portuguese title, ‘A Ultima Floresta’, offers a rare insight into the life-long struggle of Yanomami leader, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, as he fights to protect his people and their ancestral land, in Brazil’s northern Amazonian state of Roraima.
Directed by Luiz Bolognesi, the film paints an alarming picture of the impact the global demand for gold and timber, among other commodities, has on Yanomami Indigenous Territory.
The filmmaker, working in collaboration with Kopenawa, was granted unique access to film communities living in Yanomami Indigenous Territory, who have lived as one of the largest isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest for thousands of years.
The pair hope that by showcasing the resilience and strength of the Yanomami people, alongside their rich cultural heritage, beliefs, and traditions, they can highlight the threats to indigenous’ lives, livelihoods and the forest.
“I, as the leader of my people, thought that [the film] would be an opportunity to show the beauty of the Yanomami people," said Kopenawa, in an interview with Brazilian online publication, UOL. "The people of the city do not know the Yanomami reality. Nor does the government recognise us yet.
“No government has come here, they have never talked, they have never met our women, our children, our language. The struggle is greater than showing our images. This will help defend us."
The Yanomami and Ye’kuana who live in Yanomami Indigenous Territory single-handedly protect 9.6 million hectares of forest - an area roughly twice the size of Switzerland.
Since the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, who is proposing to open the Amazon to legal mining concessions in indigenous lands, an estimated 20,000 illegal gold miners have returned to Yanomami Indigenous Territory, bringing COVID-19 and the deadly Amazon variant, P1, with them.
Worryingly, between March and July 2020, there was an 85 per cent increase in deforestation in Yanomami Territory, according to Brazil’s Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA). The related climate impacts, in the form of fires and droughts, now pose huge threats to the lives and livelihoods of the 19,338 Yanomami and Ye’kuana that live there.
Davi continued: “We, the peoples of the planet, need to preserve our cultural heritage as Omame [the Creator] taught – to live well caring for our land so that future generations continue to use it.”
This is not the first time Kopenawa has raised the alarm.
As President of HAY – an organisation dedicated to supporting the Yanomami and Ye’kuana to protect their land from external threats – Kopenawa was awarded the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, often called the alternative Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Greta Thunberg, for his efforts.
In 2020, HAY and ISA launched the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign. The petition - calling for government protection of Yanomami land, lives, and livelihoods in the face of COVID-19 – received nearly half a million signatures and was presented to Congress in December 2020.
“Davi Kopenawa is doing all he can to wake us up,” said Cecilia Iorio, Brazil Country Representative for the UK charity CAFOD, which has supported HAY and the Yanomami people for more than a decade.
"This recognition comes at a crucial moment, as indigenous peoples like the Yanomami face unprecedented threats. Brazil’s government has weakened environmental legislation and implemented policies and budget cuts that violate indigenous rights, putting the hard-fought gains of previous years at risk.
“Davi Kopenawa has said again and again if the forest goes, the Yanomami will go first and then all will die. We all must wake up.”
The Last Forest | Official Trailer | Berlinale 2021 - YouTube. The film will be released on streaming services in August.
Notes to Editors
For further information and interviews with spokespeople, please contact: Elouise Hobbs, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: +44 (0)7954 077426, Or, CAFOD’s 24-hour media hotline on +44 (0)7919 301 429
Link to trailer: The Last Forest | Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tK-5dydqp8. The film will be released on streaming services in August.
Photo captions: Davi Kopenawa, President of Hutukara Yanomami Association, with pupils from Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead and St. Joseph Primary School, Putney, during a visit to the UK in 2020 to raise awareness of the threats indigenous communities face and to be presented with this year’s Right Livelihood Award, known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ (credit: Louise Norton / CAFOD).
CAFOD supports HAY’s work, and hosted Davi Kopenawa on trips to the UK in 2014 and 2020.
Find out more about CAFOD’s work in Brazil at: https://cafod.org.uk/News/International-news/Coronavirus-in-Brazil
CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. We reach out to people living in poverty with practical help, whatever their religion or culture. Help us build a world where no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need.