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Toronto Hot Docs: River Silence

This documentary is a bleak look of the devastating social, economic and cultural effects of the Belo Mente Hydro Electric Complex in Brazil. Over 40,000 river dwelling indigenous peoples were displaced because of the development. Promised housing never really materialized causing an occupation of a housing site that looks more like a high security prison than a town.

The fish are disappearing. The Xingu River is becoming polluted. The Brazilian politicians don’t seem to give a damn and the displaced know they can’t trust or rely on the politicians. You are supposed to go to a social assistance office where you are ignored.

The peaceful river dwellers are displaced persons or DP’s as they called millions after the Second World War. They now live with cell phones, violence, drugs, prostitution, teen-age pregnancy and like the vultures we see eating the carcasses of all the animals destroyed by the construction of the plant a whole host of evangelists saving the souls of the miserable.

To top things off the inhabitants of the illegally occupied shanty town are evicted by the Brazilian military. They quite frankly have been screwed by the political system and commercial enterprise.

Since 2000 some 1.3 million have been displaced by development in the Amazon Basin. Over 412 dams are in operation or construction 256 of which are in Brazil.

Before you shower pity on these victims remember Canada has a pretty sordid record of dealing with its indigenous people.

As for me this film makes me very thankful for what I have in Canada. Somewhat of a decent social infrastructure and food on the table.

This is a TVO/NFB 2019 joint production and is 92 minutes in length. It is part of the Toronto Hot Docs Festival and plays 26/28 April and 3 May. My review is based on an unfinished version of the film.

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