WHERE THE RIVER RUNS BLACK
DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER CAIN
COUNTRY: USA/BRAZIL (1987)
SUPER FEATURES: The Amazon
Of all the films about the Amazon, this is the best of them. It does not deal directly with the destruction of the rain forests, as much as it is a film about the people who inhabit that area, and their ways. It is based on a folk legend that exists around the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Acre. The fable goes on that there once lived in a small stream off the main river, a couple who had a child. One day, they were assaulted by river mercenaries. The father was killed when he tried to defend his family. The mother, was raped, and then killed and thrown to the river. The child, knowing the jungle well, runs off.
The child grows protected by a group of dolphins who live in the area, and who are the spirit protectors of the camp. Anyone approaching the area is taking their lives in their hands. The child is found by some workers who are digging away at the jungle 'for progress' and is taken to the local church, where a well meaning priest, tries to raise the child and help him rid himself of his angers, while helping the child become a bit of a christian.
The child never loses his wildness, and escapes several times, back to his home, and to play with his friends the
The problem is two fold for the child, and the priest tries to explain it to him. Basically, if he does not straighten his rebellious image, the most he has to gain from it all, is anger and eventually drink. On the other hand, every day, the tractors are closer to the child's home, and soon, there will not even be a sign of his home. The child is ready to fight. But it is a lost cause. The 'Black' is a reference to the muddy river, when the land is being moved, and torn from its purifying elements, the trees.
The casting of this film is good. Charles Dunning as the well meaning priest who has seen much destruction, and many indians fall prey to the growing progress in the area. The child played at first by Ajay Naidre is really sharp, and very intense. The photography is outstanding. And the director makes sure that when you are in the jungle you hear it all (including the screams of the raped woman) and when it gets to the city, there is no music per se. Just silence, and plain noise.
It is a well conceived story, based on a work by an American student of Brazilian literature (David Kendall's Lazaro) that is also well translated into the screen by the screenplay writers Peter Silverman and Ned Jimenez. The largest kudos go for the director Christopher Cain for having taken a good script into a better yet film, that lets you feel what it is like to be losing your home, to a force you can't stop, be it mercenary or progress. It is all the same. It destroys the family unity, all the same.
A super film, and should be seen. It's stronger than the EMERALD FOREST (John Boorman) film, and miles ahead any opinionated idea on the rain forests. By simply being what it is, a great story, it merely performs what it needs to. Either way, it is a crime not to see it, or to be active in the keeping up the massive efforts necessary to make sure that this earth's largest sources of moisture stand tall, and uncorrupted. The same goes for its inhabitants.
If you have a true conscience about the spirit of human kind and its environment, this film is for you.
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