Ayoreo Video Project

The Ayoreo Video Project is an experiment in visual anthropology and political advocacy through collaborative video-making with Ayoreo-speaking people. Developed over two years in collaboration with Totobiegosode-Ayoreo leadership and the organization Video Nas Aldeias, the project taught Ayoreo to make their own videos. It began with a video workshop in a remote village, which trained a select group of fourteen Ayoreo from five villages, three sub-groups and both sides of the Bolivia/Paraguay border in the basics of digital filmmaking. The project assisted Ayoreo filmmakers as they conceived, shot and edited videos on the topics and themes of their choice. The result is a set of four feature length films, meant as stand-alone parts of a quartet, that revise previous images of Ayoreo.  These include the first three Ayoreo-made videos and an ethnographic documentary about the process. Together, the films allow Ayoreo to tell their own stories about themselves, to speak back to impoverished representations of their humanity, and to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue in a context of violent dispossession. At the same time, the films open new directions for future reflection, research and advocacy.

Films of the Ayoreo Video Project

Farewell to Savage | 2017 | 70 minutes | Lucas Bessire (with Bernard Belisário and Ernesto de Carvalho)

This film uses footage from the video workshop, a drone and archival footage shot by the filmmaker in this place a decade prior to craft a non-linear reflection on the power of visuality to provoke new ways of relating to the world, each other, and alternate versions of ourselves. In visual dialogue with each of the Ayoreo videos, the film documents how the video making process unleashed new potentials and dilemmas for all involved, in ways that pose important questions for anthropological theory, practice and advocacy.

Yiquijmapiedie - Our Ways | 2017 | 52 minutes | Chagabi Etacore

In this quiet reflection on making and belonging, the leader of a band that made first contact in 2004 and two others re-create material objects that were once crucial to survival in the pre-contact forest but that have little use in the present and are thus being forgotten. Working together, the three protagonists show the process of digging up a water root, creating wooden storage containers for water, and making bark ropes for a swing game. They provide subtle commentaries on their activities and instruct younger generations about these practices.

Ore Enominone - Visions | 2017 | 92 minutes | Ajesua Etacoro & Daijnidi Picanerai

This film is an ethnofictional performance about the creation and inhabitation of a dream world in the forest. Created by the survivors of a deadly 1986 first contact, the Totobiegosode protagonists play a fictional version of themselves and share their unique knowledge of traditional foods, practices and beliefs. Blurring the lines between staged reenactments and serious engagements with present challenges, the film opens new spaces for its creators to reflect on the ruptures of the past and to envision a more inhabitable future.

Ujirei - Regeneration | 2017 | 55 minutes | Mateo Sobode Chiqueno

This is a critical meditation on contemporary Ayoreo realities by a 65-year-old Ducodegose man and respected leader who played instrumental roles in his people’s transition from forest to evangelical mission. Filmed over the course of eight months on an evangelical mission, the fragmentary film offers a critique of political marginality and shares one man’s visionary perspective on the destruction and rebirth of Ayoreo society. The film was an official selection of the 2016 Forumdoc film festival in Belo Horizonte Brazil and the 2018 Premio Anaconda festival, where it earned a Special Recognition prize. Distributed by Video nas Aldeias and available here.

General Credits

Producer & Project Coordinator:
Lucas Bessire

Video Workshop Coordinator:
Ernesto de Carvalho

Workshop Advisor:
Kamikiá Kisedje

Workshop Advisor:
Rocio Picanere

Editing Coordinator:
Bernard Belisário

Cultural Advisor:
Chagabi Etacore

Post-Production:
Fábio Menezes and Video Nas Aldeias

This project was made possible in part by financial assistance from a Fejos Fellowship from the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, as well as from the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, a program of the Reed Foundation, and an Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship from the University of Oklahoma.