Filmadores Mebêngôkres: A Discussion with Bepunu and Pat-i Kayapo
A blog that features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.
Pat-i Kayapó and Bepunu Kayapó visited Purdue University in March of 2018 as part of a video tour in the United States where their work was shown at the Smithsonian Institution's Mother Tongue Film Festival along with presentations of work at Middle Tennessee State University, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, and the Field Museum, Chicago. At Purdue, they took time to sit down with project partners to talk about their craft.
Purdue University, March 6, 2018
Translated by Ingrid Ramón Parra and Dr. Laura Zanotti
Questions posed and translation transcription by Pamela Carralero
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Bepunu: My name is Bepunu and I’m from Moikarako, a village in Brazil’s southern state of Pará.
I am an indigenous filmmaker and have a dream of one day creating films showcasing the lives and festivals of indigenous people both within and beyond my village.
While I hope to show these films in my village, I would ultimately like to screen them in different spaces throughout Brazil. Over the past few years, I have learned an enormous amount about information technology and am very happy to have the opportunity to engage in media-making in the land where I live, and am very happy to be here now participating in this short interview.
In 2004 my journey as a filmmaker began. I was trained by the American filmmaker Dr. Glenn Shepard in the Goeldi Museum in Belém do Pará during a program exclusively focused on teaching indigenous peoples the art of filmmaking.
In general, I film both important events taking place in my village and the daily activities of women, children, and different community members.
My goal is simply to share indigenous life, be it inside my village, outside of my village, in indigenous or non-indigenous spaces. I have had the chance to present my work in Europe and throughout Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo, Belém, and at a film festival in Acre. I’ve additionally traveled to other indigenous territories in Brazil to film and get to know the people who live there.
I am an active filmmaker. However, in the future I hope to become a teacher to show other indigenous peoples the art of filmmaking, from utilizing the necessary equipment to editing the final product. Most importantly, though, I want to see other worlds. In every place I travel to I meet other indigenous peoples. I feel it’s important that we connect with each other; I want to learn about their ways of life, and, in turn, want to share my culture with them.
Pat-i: My name is Pat-i and I’m from the village of A’Ukre. Since I began watching films I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker. I began practicing filmmaking in 2011 and since then can be found behind the camera capturing images.
I want to learn more about the technology behind the trade and how to use computers to their full extent by learning things such as how to use a pin drive or how to share news through email to be able to serve as a teacher to other community members or indigenous peoples interested in filmmaking.
I’ve filmed a lot of different events in my community, like ceremonies and hunting and fishing expeditions, and I want to share these events with others. My goal is to become a professional filmmaker, and so I’ve been working very hard to learn more and more about filmmaking and editing techniques. There are also many film styles, such as documentary, that I don’t know yet and need help and support to learn. In the Kayapo Lands, there are misguided people currently attempting to take away our lands and destroy our territory. Film can help defend our territory and culture.
What motivates you as filmmakers?
Pat-i: Self-representation through film and images is crucial. Let’s take, for example, Video in the Villages [a Brazilian a non-governmental, non-profit organization that teaches Amazon Indians how to use filmmaking technology]. Back in the 1970s, the organization’s founder began the program and since then has been working with indigenous filmmakers. However, the resulting films unfortunately haven’t been distributed to a larger population in any way.
We got hold of an old video that was filmed in about four different villages some time ago. In it we saw a lot of young people who were interested in filming for posterity – for their children and grandchildren. Yet no one in the film was really speaking about village life, which we need to remember. Hunting, collective gardening, festivals from beginning to end – film serves as a register for these activities. Museums and universities can help in that they can be safe spaces for archiving these films so that they can be safely preserved for future generations.
What is the largest challenge you face as an indigenous filmmaker?
Bepunu: Being an indigenous filmmaker is not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult. Just traveling to the city and leaving the village to participate in, for example, an audio-visual course or any kind of event showcasing my/our work is very hard, not only because of money but also because of the time and resources spent to travel to the destination.
We also face challenges when it comes to attempting to source funds for purchasing film equipment, especially if it’s through the Brazilian bureaucratic system. As Kayapo, we don’t have our own money to buy these things – so we rely on the bureaucratic system to get equipment. People sometimes ask us why we don’t have equipment sooner or can’t get it faster. With the Brazilian system, there’s a lot of wait time before anything can be accomplished or resolved and then transferred into the hands of filmmakers or of an indigenous community. There can be a general wait time of 1-2 years between petitioning and then receiving the funds to get the equipment.
Unfortunately, sometimes projects fall through during this wait time. We need support, we need different types of equipment to work with video and sound. Getting all these things are very difficult. Plus, there are some Brazilians who have very little interest in helping the Kayapo attain this equipment faster, or in a more streamlined way. We currently have to do a large amount of paperwork for grants and or for funding for small project before we can get bureaucratic or film processes moving.