Like a visual poem extracted from a dream, its lines end deceptively in idle clearings. Five-year-old Eami witnesses the destruction of a village and the exodus of its people with her own eyes. The girl is known in the village as being the bird-whisperer: as she plunges into the magical forest, Eami’s creeping, singing, hissing, and green creatures are inseparable from herself. She is ready to tell the story of the Ayoreo people, their fates, and of the slowly disappearing landscape.
“Eami” means both “forest” and “world” in Ayoreo, the language of the indigenous people of Paraguay. The film, which won the Tiger Award at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival, is one of this year’s most visually sophisticated films. It cracks open the colonialist narrative and allows indigenous people to speak for themselves. The poem approaches composition with inventiveness and is told from the point of view of a child to celebrate the majesty of nature, its rhythms, textures, and brutal past. Paraguayan director Paz Encina focuses on the sparsely populated region of Chaco and the deforestation that is taking place there, which is estimated to be the most rapid in the world. The forest is the “world” that this ethnic community has lost.