The Traditional Brazilian Family KATU
Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment
Rodrigo Seña’s The Traditional Brazilian Family KATU documents the disparate lives of a single indigenous potiguara family from Katu. Within the push and pull of the Brazilian socio-political context each family member has gone separate ways. However, Seña weaves all their stories together to offer a portrait of the contemporary indigenous experience.
The opening sequence contrasts two members of the family in disparate surroundings, outlining the differing attitudes of peoples to the land. The first member has resumed life as a shaman, wondering the forests and backroads of the region. Throughout the film he engages in spiritual activity deeply engaged with the land. The land for him is not a resource but himself a custodian, an aspect of the land. By contrast, another member has become an agricultural labourer working on the sugar plantations on previous forest raised by sugar companies. He works most of the day on the land only to go home to eat and sleep. The labour has effectively cut off the spiritual relay with the land, using the land as possession and resource for capital and profit.
The more intriguing characters Seña shows us are those who have lost their indigenous ways through choice. Junior, the priest, sticks out in this regard. After recounting his experience with Catholics in the past, their imperialism and evangelism, he himself informs us of his own priesthood. Though we do not dwell with him for long enough to hear his reasoning we are left with the question why? If the Catholic Portuguese forced this way of life onto the indigenous community, erasing their animistic culture, why would you convert? Seña makes sure not to pass any type of judgement however, the judgement itself maybe acting as its own form of imperialism. We must sit and understand the nuance of the situation and, most importantly, respect the agency of those involved.
The end sequence encapsulates Seña’s message. Bringing our attention back to the issue of land rights and resource management, the indigenous person’s VoiceOver reminds us of the ecological component at hand. They say, “Indians never believed that the land belonged to them. They belonged to the land.” This alternate attitude lays bare the interconnectedness of capitalism, colonialism and ecological disaster. If we really consider ourselves socialists our approach must consider the interconnected nature of all things… and their exploitation.