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Yanomami Indians Straddle Two Worlds (2000)


The Yanomami Indians, living in the Amazon forests crossing Venezuela and Brazil, are one of the last large relatively unacculturated indigenous groups left in the world. Increasing contacts with the outside world, especially over the last 25 years, has dramatically impacted the Yanomami.


"Yanomami: Straddling Two Worlds" documents the lives of a group of Indians (whose origins are from more remote highland areas) living along the lowland banks of a navigable river. They've migrated to be closer to sources of metal goods, medicines and other material goods that have made their lives easier. They now have frequent contact with a wide variety of people who travel along the river - gold miners, merchants, missionaries, anthropologists, government agents, military, local residents and tourists. They've learned new skills to adapt to new living conditions (such as fishing to compensate for diminished wildlife for hunting) and are learning to need money and other goods. New ways of life are replacing ancient traditions. The Yanomami are one of man's last links to our ancient, semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer history. When the Yanomami are integrated into modern society, the world will lose a rich cultural tradition originating with our earliest ancestors.


Film Treatment:

In November 2000, just before the Venezuelan government closed protected Yanomami lands to outsiders, filmmakers Cliff Orloff and Olga Shalygin, a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, visited and lived with a small group of Yanomami Indians temporarily residing along the banks of the Casiquiare River.


Three segments, documenting the lives of this acculturated group of Indians and illustrating the changes in their culture, are presented here. Segment I - "Spirits and Medicine" shows the increased reliance on western medicines, along with traditional shaman rituals, to cure illness. Segment II - "Hunting Lifestyle Threatened," documents the increased reliance on the river and fishing for sources of protein as a result of diminished wildlife in the region. Segment III - "Entering the World of Money," examines the Yanomami's decreasing self-sufficiency as they start relying more on money and manufactured goods.

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