The Amazon can be a dangerous place, and it was especially so during the administration of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, when environmental laws were relaxed or not enforced. A recent study estimated that 99% of deforestation in the Amazon is illegal, much of it linked to organized crime. The remote settlements near the gold mines are lawless, violent places inhabited mainly by young miners paid in gold and supplied with drugs by cartels.
One day in June 2021, Mosse read reports of a skirmish between indigenous Yanomami villagers and seekers, or illegal gold prospectors. The miners brought with them diseases, including malaria, which made the children of the villagers sick. Young Yanomami women were forced into prostitution, bringing more disease. The gold mining process involves the use of mercury, traces of which are washed into the river, harming wildlife and entering the villagers’ food supply.
« They lived in heaven, » Mosse said. « Suddenly they’re living in hell. »
Mosse read how the villagers fixed a cable across the river, blocking a boat loaded with precious diesel heading towards the seeker settlement. They seized the diesel and burned it. THE seekers returned fire and several villagers were killed. That night and many nights after, seekers (or the cartels protecting them) fired automatic weapons at the villagers’ huts.
Mosse hastily booked flights to Boa Vista in northern Brazil. From there he chartered a Cessna plane to take him to the village. Traveling with him were his “repairer-translator” and the regional leader of the Yanomami, Júnior Hekurari Yanomami.
In the film’s most memorable and impactful scene, one of the villagers, a woman named Adneia, addresses the camera directly. At first, her fury is directed at the Brazilian president: “Bolsonaro, parasite. You keep sending gold miners to our land. That’s disgusting. He’s disgusting, ugly man. »