review – our fight

if-not-us

This short, poignant documentary chronicles the murder of Edwin Chota and three other indigenous inhabitants of Peru’s in their on-going struggle to defend their land from illegal loggers and drug traffickers. Tucked deep in Peru’s Amazon jungle basin, the small village of Saweto is at the epicenter of the fight for land title and conservation against the criminal elements that take advantage of the lack of authority in the area. Mr. Chota was part of a larger campaign to gain title to the land the Asheninka people have dwelled on for centuries. The community leaders feel that the lack of title to the land emboldens the criminal loggers, as absent title, the authorities are apparently reluctant to intervene.

The remote area also serves as a primary smuggling route for coca paste going into Brazil. The combination of rare timbers that can be illegally harvested with the secluded smuggling routes for high value narcotics leaves the villagers in a dangerous and vulnerable spot. The criminal element is heavily armed and has almost no incentive to not use violence in what is essentially a lawless area. Similar to what is happening all through Central and South America, moneyed interests, both criminal and “legitimate”, seem to revel in taking advantage of lax laws, ineffective governments and the seclusion of the rainforest to enrich themselves at the direct expense of the environment, and the local population.

Director Paul Redman has created a powerful voice which shouts in unison with the growing awareness of the grave injustices the indigenous peoples throughout the region are subjected to with impunity. One hopes the cascade of voices will reach a point where meaningful change can be achieved and give these vulnerable native populations the justice they deserve.

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