People gather during the Kanua film festival in Ecuador.

Film festival makes its way through Ecuador's Amazon by boat

For the past few weeks, a floating film festival has been plying the waters of Ecuador's Amazon region. The films are transported aboard a solar-powered boat. It stops in Indigenous communities along the rivers, sets up a projector, and shows films by and about Indigenous people around the globe.

The World

Ecuador is hosting a one-of-a-kind floating film festival in the Amazon region. It’s making its rounds onboard a solar-powered river boat, stopping at different Indigenous communities along riverbanks.

The Kanua film festival team sets up a projector to screen films that are not only about, but also produced by Indigenous people.

The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with a member of the festival’s crew during their latest stop in the Achuar territory of the Ecuadorian Amazon region.

Elizabeth Swanson Andi, an Indigenous filmmaker and storyteller who grew up in Ecuador and the United States, is a member of the Venezia derecha community in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

She described her surroundings:

“It's raining right now. I'm surrounded by this beautiful thatched roof with beautiful designs and weavings, and as I'm looking around at them, I'm just thinking about all the people, the community members who wove this together and the stories that are woven within this group. And I have a fire next to me. The community members are here with us right now, and we're kind of having our last moments together before we head out. This is Day 15 and we're all going to be heading out in probably about an hour.”

The Kanua floating film festival is the first of its kind, bringing film screenings to Indigenous communities along riverbanks in Ecuador's Amazon region.

The Kanua floating film festival is the first of its kind, bringing film screenings to Indigenous communities along riverbanks in Ecuador's Amazon region.

Credit:

Courtesy of Kanua Film Festival

When asked what people’s reactions have been, she said that one of her favorite parts has been putting up the large movie screen.

“For many, this is the first time  ... they've seen ... movies by Indigenous filmmakers.”

Elizabeth Swanson Andi, Indigenous filmmaker

“For many, this is the first time they've seen such a big screen,” Andi explained. “And for many also the first time that they've seen movies and movies by Indigenous filmmakers.”

In one community, they screened the movies directly on the solar-powered canoe, but it was a challenging thing to do while floating. Most of the groups held the screenings at their community centers.

“Usually the community leader, right before the film, holds this clay horn and you blow through it. And that's how they would call the community members to let them know that the film screening was about to start,” she said.

Many children would then run toward the center. A lot of women, especially grandmothers, would come with a traditional drink to share with everyone. Then they would watch something that was put together as a collaborative project.

“The reactions are usually laughter,” Andi said.

Crowds of people from Indigenous communities gather to watch films during the Kanua film festival in Ecuador.

Crowds of people from Indigenous communities gather to watch films during the Kanua film festival in Ecuador.

Credit:

Courtesy of Kanua Film Festival

One of the audience’s favorite films is called "Allpamanda," which means "for the land" in the native Kichua language.

It's about the Indigenous uprising in 1992. And a lot of the older generations, seeing people they knew on screen would say, "Oh yeah, I remember this. We were there."

There's also mention of those who have since passed away who also fought and did incredible work — lot of mothers and fathers who marched, many of them barefoot, from the Amazon rainforest through the Andes mountain range and all the way to the [Ecuadorian] capital of Quito to fight for their rights.

The films screened during the Kanua film festival in Ecuador were also produced by Indigenous communities.

The films screened during the Kanua film festival in Ecuador were also produced by Indigenous communities.

Credit:

Courtesy of Kanua Film Festival

“It was beautiful to see the kids learn,” Andi added. “This was like an educational moment for them, as well.”

Andi said that the films also connect the people to the relationship with their own territories, the rivers, the forests, with community.

“It's been really beautiful to have community members, after watching the films, stand up and share some of their reactions, and say thank you,” she said. “And a lot of the adults have stood up and addressed the youth saying, ‘You see, like other nationalities, other Indigenous filmmakers are making this in their own territories. You also can do this. You also can be a filmmaker if you choose.’”

Indigenous communities come together for the Kanua floating film festival in Ecuador.

Indigenous communities come together for the Kanua floating film festival in Ecuador.

Credit:

Courtesy of Kanua Film Festival

When asked about the fundamental idea behind the floating film festival featuring Indigenous stories by Indigenous filmmakers, Andi explained that, “a lot of people have come to our communities to tell our stories without really having us involved in the creation of the films.”

“And a lot of the time, they take our stories and don't share it with us,” she said. “So, I think a big part of this film festival is building strength within each community and really showing that it's possible that Indigenous peoples, we have so many stories to tell, and we can tell our stories. We can be behind the camera, we can be in front of the camera. We have so much to give and to share with each other, but also with the world.”

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