Children of the Amazon: Forest Time

by Denise Zmekhol on April 13, 2009

in Children of the Amazon, climate change, deforestation, film, global warming, Green21, rainforest, social change, Video

My name is Denise Zmekhol. I am a filmmaker and photographer. I’m excited about the opportunity to produce and direct Green21, a series which addresses climate change and sustainability from a global perspective.

My latest film is Children of the Amazon, a co-production with ITVS. The clip above is about Forest Time – tempo de floresta in Portuguese – the time before the settlers came to the Amazon.

Below is an excerpt from my interview with Bruce Gellerman of Living on Earth

GELLERMAN: This is the sound of the Amazon rainforest. It’s one of the richest places on the planet for plants and wildlife and home to scores of remote indigenous tribes. The forest is also one of the most important places in the world for regulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


GELLERMAN: This too is the sound of the Amazon. Chainsaws and bulldozers have been carving away at the rainforest for decades clearing land for highways, cattle ranches and soybean plantations. It’s estimated that nearly 20 percent of the Amazon has been cleared, including an area almost the size of New Hampshire just last year.

Much of the destruction of the Amazon forest has taken place on the territory of indigenous tribes. In just a few brief years, members of many of these isolated societies were wrenched from the stone age into the space age… some driven nearly to extinction by their first contact with the outside world.

Almost 20 years ago, Denise Zmekhol traveled deep into the Amazon to photograph and document their struggles. She recently returned with a film crew to examine the changes the people of the rainforest have gone through since her first visit. Her new film is called “Children of the Amazon.”

It focuses on one tribe in particular: the Surui. Denise Zmekhol says the Surui never had contact with the outside world until the roads we built.

ZMEKHOL: The first official contact happened in 1969 when they were still living in what I call in the film “forest time.” It’s a very recent contact and I think they had to learn a lot about our society and our world in such a small time. So for thousands of years they were living in one way and just 39 years ago everything changed for them.

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