First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon

By Dan Clendenin

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First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon (2016) — Brazil

In June of 2014, four men from an “uncontacted tribe” deep in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil emerged on a riverbank to make contact with outside civilization on the opposite bank. The moment was caught in crude film footage that went viral on YouTube. The four men were from the Sapanauhau tribe. Nine months after this first contact, the Brazilian anthropologist Carlos Meirelles made the eight day journey upstream to renew contact with the tribe. There’s an ominous undertone to the encounter, with mutual fear, incomprehension, and suspicion. But 35 of these Sapanauhau were later resettled by the Brazilian government. What drove them to make contact with the outside world? Rain, hunger, disease, and sleepless nights. “A jaguar killed and ate my grandmother,” says one. They loved the clothes, the pots, the pans, and the shoes. The documentary then follows a similar contact with another tribe called the Mascho. “Is it dangerous?” Meirelles is asked. “Yes, of course it’s dangerous.” But in his view such contacts are inevitable and good. Human survival requires change. This nature documentary is only 49 minutes long, and would make for excellent family film night. I watched it on Netflix.

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