Stereotypes Fade as Film Project Empowers Indigenous Youth in Brazil

A group of Brazilian primary school children giggle, dance and move around as they watch indigenous children imitating Michael Jackson on-screen. “Is this Brazil?” they discuss after watching the film about the modern realities of their indigenous counterparts. They are among thousands of Brazilian children unlearning common stereotypes about indigenous people, thanks to a unique multi-media education kit (available online here) produced by Vídeo nas Aldeias with young filmmakers and their communities from the remote Ashaninka and Guarani groups.  


“This kit has a strong competitive edge in comparison to others, as it uses video as a teaching tool, and because it offers a very intimate and entertaining perspective produced by young indigenous filmmakers themselves,” explains Vincent Carelli, the Director of Vídeo nas Aldeias.


For the past 17 years, Vídeo nas Aldeias has been training indigenous filmmakers and helping them to produce and distribute their films. Mr Carelli says that while many have gone on to work in journalism and the filmmaking industry, not all of them want to become media professionals, opting to engage in social activism. “Many are also empowered to become community leaders and advocates, reaching maturity and earning the respect of their communities through their involvement with these projects,” he said.


This latest initiative was supported by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD). Participants developed their skills in scripting, production and editing. The resulting films – which explore environmental issues, marginalization and poverty in an intimate and sometimes humorous way – now form part of the multi-media education kit, which also includes a teaching guide.


Already, more than 2,000 teachers nation-wide have downloaded the new kit. It has also been submitted to the Brazilian Ministry of Education and is on the verge of being adapted, ready for distribution to elementary schools across the country. With a new Brazilian law recently adopted, requiring schools to teach indigenous history and culture, the demand for engaging educational subject matter is only expected to increase. The young filmmakers and their communities are now well placed, with their improved skills and distribution networks, to help fill this market niche and ultimately also to improve their incomes.  


“We have established with the indigenous producers and their communities financial contracts for copyrights that secures a portion of the income to the indigenous filmmakers and to the communities portrayed.  We retain only a distribution fee, which goes mostly to enable future projects,” Mr Carelli said.


Patricia Ferreira is one of the young filmmakers involved and a teacher in an indigenous school. “We can now show materials that are made by us, but also by other indigenous communities. This valorizes the classroom and its contents,” she explained. “The young people involved also become closer to their cultural knowledge, valuing it through their films,” Mr Carelli added.





Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention