The Buriti Flower (2023) Ensemble Prize 2023

May 23rd, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Joao Salviza, Renee Nader Messora; Cast: Francisco Hyjno Kraho, Luzia Cruvakwyj Kraho, Debora Sodre.

The Kraho are an indigenous tribe of hunters gatherers who have continuously fought and died to retain their lands along the Balsas River in northeastern Brazil, since 1940. Renee Nader Messora and Joao Salaviza introduced us to these people back in 2018 with their Un Certain Regard jury prize winner The Dead and the Others/

Five years later they are back in the Un Certain Regard sidebar to elaborate on their experience living amongst the tribe, this time spending 15 months living with them and shooting on 16mm. The Buriti Flower much connects to a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world struggling to maintain their ancestral rights and preserve their freedom in the face of the developed world that continues to expand into their ancestral territory.

The government of former President Bolsonaro called the area “unproductive” and helped European settlers to “reclaim” it by force. The history of the Kraho people is a history of massacres, with the government of the day more or less complicit. The “National Indian Foundation” (FUNAI) was founded in 1969, after its predecessor had to be abandoned because it supported the aggressive settlers in taken the land from the Kraho and other Indian minorities.

Jotat Kraho a young girl (who like most of the actors play themselves) has hallucinations about an upcoming disaster. Her sleep is disturbed and she flies through the air in her dreams. Her uncle  asks the titular Buriti palm for advice. He and other Kraho people are on the way to Brasilia for a congress of Indian minorities wanting to bring their grievances to the central administration.

But before they set off, we are told in detail the massacres of the 1950s, when the two most wealthiest ranchers of the area hired cow-boys and their guns, to liquidate the Kraho population so that their land would fall to the massacre’s perpetrators. One young Kraho woman woke up early on that fateful day, so she could warn others, before hiding. The village eldest Balbino – who we see in a black-and-white film shot before the massacre, tried to argue with the aggressors, only to be shot in the back when walking to his house. Up to this day, the “Gatehouse” to the village is always covered twenty- four fours because the threat of another invasion is always virulent.

Buriti ends on a hopeful note with the birth of the baby: “One more, but we need Two for the Leopard”. This is a melancholic and languid feature rather like the waters that dominate the landscape. There is a ghostly atmosphere that lends a surreal air to the proceedings, pregnant with possibility. DOP Nader-Messora lets her imagination roam freely, and the result is a kaleidoscope of water fairies and dream like creatures of all kinds This is set against the barbaric background of history. Unique and emotionally gripping.


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