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On the run from COVID-19, an Indigenous family treks deep into the Amazon rainforest

In early 2020, the Kichwa people of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon were contending with two centuries-old threats: attempted exploitation of their lands by oil interests, and deadly diseases brought by outsiders. Directed by the Sarayaku Kichwa filmmaker Eriberto Gualinga, The Return follows a family that, amid Ecuador’s devastating COVID-19 crisis, chooses to uproot from their home and journey further into the jungle for protection. Encompassing roughly a year, the short film captures how Indigenous communities in Ecuador are constantly forced to assert their rights to protect their culture and lives. But, resisting familiar ‘Indigenous-peoples-in-peril’ narratives, which often portray such communities as powerless and their cultures as dying, Gualinga’s film celebrates Kichwa resilience, tracking how the family reconnects with ancestral knowledge and reaffirms their spiritual connection to the land – a narrative of perseverance and rebirth that’s underscored by Gualinga’s distinctive perspective as an Indigenous filmmaker.

Director: Eriberto Gualinga

Producers: Nina Gualinga, Marc Silver

Website: Guardian Documentaries

5 August 2021

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