Brazil's Awa Tribe: The Final Battle

A film by Laurent Richard
Broadcast in January 2014

The Awá tribe of Brazil is facing slow and inevitable destruction as those who want their forest close in around them. The Awás who number around 450 are among the last hunter-gatherers in the world. “Survival” – a NGO defending the right of isolated people to their way of life – is campaigning for them. According to Survival, suicide rates among isolated people are soaring following contact with modern men.

This film investigates the political and financial interests that are at stake in what some anthropologists call “modern genocide”. Despite several protective international treaties, these territories have been illegally exploited by electricity, oil and logging giants over the past 40 years. Chasing out their inhabitants – violently, if necessary. The Brazilian government, reluctant to engage against the powerful agricultural lobby, is doing very little to stop the industry.

The Awá tribe is up against the illegal logging industry which is reported to weigh around $15 billion annually and to have strong ties to organized crime. The forest which they depend upon to survive is shrinking. No forest means no food, no resources, no habitat. It means certain death. Within a few years, around 20% of the Awás have already disappeared. As criminal loggers keep gaining ground with impunity, survivors have no other choice but to adapt by hiding, hunting only during nighttime, beware of dogs and shootings…

In 2012, 1200 indigenous people were attacked and 60 were killed by loggers. The activists who try to help them are also life-threatened: 1280 have been assassinated since the 1970s.

A Brazilian judge inquiring illegal logging in Maranhao state recently alerted on the Awá tribe’s real risk of genocide.

As celebrities like Colin Firth get involved in campaigning alongside NGOs such as Survival, there might be a chance to save these people who have been struggling for 20 years. But it might be a little too late after decades of destruction. Both the forest and its people risk extinction.


Learn more about the Awa tribe with NGO Survival