‘The Falling Sky’ Directors Eryk Rocha and Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha on How The Amazon’s Yanomami Tribe Can Teach ‘White People’ to Dream Collectively

Brazilian directors’ Eryk Rocha and Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha’s “The Falling Sky” delves into lives of the Amazonian Yanomami people, who live in the heart of the Amazon rainforest where they are contending with a harsh humanitarian crisis caused by the massive invasion of wildcat miners searching for gold and cassiterite, a mineral used in electronics. This unique doc – which launches in Directors Fortnight – is inspired by the thoughts, expressed in an eponymous book, of Davi Kopenawa, a shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami who performs the reahu ritual, a collective ceremony to hold up the sky and prevent it from falling.

The directors spoke in unison to Variety about why the Yanomami’s struggle against miners transcends the woes of their land and how their cosmology can help heal our planet as a whole.

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What drew you to this project?

In the book Davi Kopenawa says that it’s his will to extend his world so that white people – non-indigenous people – can hear him and in particular learn how to dream. His diagnosis about our society in our opinion is, very, very precise: the problem of [us] non-indigenous people is that we sleep a lot, but we can only dream within ourselves. For him one of the main problems of our society is that we are unable to dream with others. So this film is an effort to work together with Davi Kopenawa and with the Yanomami, to use the power of filmmaking and the tools that we have as artists to work with him to extend our ability to transcend individuality when we dream and dream collectively.

How did you achieve such intimacy with Davi Kopenawa and the Yanomami people?

Gabriela had years of experience working with them in the realm of performing arts. Our desire was that the camera should feel the vitality, the friendship and of course the strength of the Yanomami people. So we didn’t arrive with a firmly structured way of going about it. We got there with a very, very small crew. The camera looked at the vibrancy, the heat that these people emanate. And we worked with that.

This intimacy is particularly intense during the reahu ritual

The experience with the Yanomami of shooting this ceremony transformed us and also has transformed our cinema. They were inventing the language of the film, together with us. They were modulating, they were proposing the language of the film.

“The Falling Sky” is clearly a wake up call about the damage being done to our planet, not just the Amazon forest. How aware do you think Davi and the Yanomami people are of the film’s larger significance?

They are conscious of their larger significance. There is a moment in the film when Davi says: “I’m holding up all this territory,” and he names the communities inside the indigenous land. But he also says, “But it’s not only that, it’s the whole earth.” Unlike us, I think the Yanomami understand that they cannot live outside the relationship. So their efforts to hold the sky above their own community is the same effort to hold up the sky for all of us. There is another moment in which Davi speaks directly to us and says “You – referred to white men – You have the murder mark” And he names the countries who have a history of colonization and neo-colonization. And he says why this happens, when he says that “money is the only reason for which you really cry.” So he knows us; he’s studying us. And this, for us, is very precious. What we have on the screen is an encounter with a shaman who is giving his shamanic critique of our world. But also, his shamanic efforts to hold up the sky. The old shamans, they are dying and if the last one of them dies, there will be no one else who can hold up the sky.

Falling Sky
Falling Sky

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