As the only Brazilian film selected in Berlinale’s Panorama sidebar, documentary “The Last Forest” by Luis Bolognesi hopes to shine a blazing light on the grave issues affecting the Amazon and its indigenous inhabitants.

Since taking office in 2019, populist president Jair Bolsonaro has allowed gold prospectors to exploit these lands despite a law meant to protect them. Deforestation of the Amazon has more than doubled during his tenure. The gold miners have also polluted the waters and brought diseases, including COVID-19, to these remote villages.

“The Last Forest” focuses on the Yanomami tribe who live in the Brazilian-Venezuelan border region, where Bolognesi, an anthropologist-documentarian, combines observational footage with staged sequences developed with shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, one of the most renowned spokespersons for the Yanomami who has spoken at Harvard and before the Swedish and U.K. Parliaments as part of his awareness campaign.

Asked how he was able to gain the confidence of this isolated tribe and their shaman, Bolognesi points to his previous film, “Ex-Shaman,” which was in the 2018 Berlin Panorama where it won the Glasshütte Award and a Special Jury Mention. Having established a relationship with one tribe allowed him access to others, he explained. He credits Spanish cinematographer Pedro Marquez, who aside from delivering the documentary’s stunning images, also worked on “Ex-Shaman” and was adept at gaining the trust of the people he filmed, he added.

Lazy loaded image
The Last Forest Courtesy of Gullane/Pedro J Marquez

Getting the natives to reenact some recent events for the film was quite easy, he said. “They are natural actors; I only had to instruct them not to look at the camera,” Bolognesi recalled, although they had to overcome their superstition about cameras robbing their souls. “They knew that it was important to set aside their fears and work towards spreading the message about their crisis,” he said.

“Davi has a strong, charismatic voice; we hope to amplify his message, raise more awareness and support from the global community,” said producer Fabiano Gullane, who will handle the sales and distribution of the film.

Gullane has backed several films on similar themes, including “Ex-Shaman,” 3D family drama “Amazonia,” drama “Birdwatchers” and animated film “Rio 2096 – A Story of Love and Fury,” also by Bolognesi, which took home the 2013 Annecy Animation Film Festival Crystal Award.

“I hope that more media coverage and public awareness will persuade investors to put more pressure on Bolsonaro’s government; money is the only language they understand,” said Bolognesi.

“The Last Forest” is a co-production between Gullane (brothers Caio Gullane and Fabiano Gullane) and Buriti Filmes (Laís Bodanzky and Luiz Bolognesi) in association with Hutukara Associação Yanomami and Instituto Sociambiental.