The Common Film Portrayals of Amazon Indigenous People
Historically, Amazon indigenous peoples have found it difficult to build a presence in western filmography. Over the years, there have been more and more indigenous people that have entered the industry, allowing for a steady rise in indigenous-representations in films. Success from film’s such as “Embrace of the Serpent”, have called for greater representation of indigenous people as interest in the Amazon rainforest has picked up. While progress has been made, indigenous people are still faced with the challenge of finding diversity in the roles they portray. Traditionally, traits such as primitivism, savagery or passiveness, come to mind when envisioning indigenous characters in western films historically. The lack of variety in indigenous film representation is negatively affecting Indigenous people as it creates generalizations or stereotypes about their personalities or culture that may not be accurate or true. While genuine efforts have been made by western film producers to prevent racial labels or overviews in films, there are still indirect forms of indigenous stereotyping that occurs. To further research this topic, I watched two prominent films, which were both set in the Amazon and had indigenous representation, “The Emerald Forest” and “The Lost City of Z”. After watching them, I noticed distinct commonalities between the films’ indigenous characters. One such commonality was the indigenous character’s relationship dynamic with the films’ white protagonists. The indigenous characters were usually either the obedient and flat counterpart of the white protagonist or their vicious enemy. Deriving from this theme, I observed that the construction of the indigenous character’s personality was similar, using traditional stereotypes such as the indigenous warrior or the classical noble savage as a basis. While these narratives may not occur in all films with indigenous representation, they appeared commonly in these two, quite prominent films. Using examples from them, I will display how the Amazon indigenous people are portrayed in a generalized manner in the films.
Indigenous and White Relationship Dynamic
The disposition of indigenous characters in these three films is seemingly correlated with their relationship with the typical white protagonist. Through the lens of western viewpoint, the indigenous character can be simplified really in two ways; the good native or bad native. The good or helpful native has a positive relationship with white characters in the film and may act as a driver for the white protagonist’s character development. Their character’s make up is usually quite simple and one dimensional, as they are mainly there to provide background for the protagonist. On the other side of the spectrum, is the bad or vile native whose purpose in the film challenges the white protagonist. While they have a greater presence in the film, their personality is qu...