‘Eami’ Creates Unique Entry Into Little-Known Indigenous Region By Blending Factual & Fictional Storytelling – Contenders Documentary

In the semi-documentary film Eami, a word that tellingly means both “forest” and “world” to the indigenous Ayoreo Totobiegosode people of Paraguay, the native’s increasingly shrinking landscape, due to deforestation, serves as a grounded but dreamlike backdrop for a story that blends elements of fiction and nonfiction storytelling.

As Paraguayan filmmaker Paz Encina revealed during Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary panel, the inspired approach – which tells the fictionalized story of a 5-year-old girl who, like so many of her people before her, finds herself forced to leave the only home she‘s known as the modern world encroaches – arrived at while attempting to persuade the Ayoreo Totobiegosode to let her tell one of their stories cinematically.

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“I went there looking for a love story in that community,” said Encina, who’d been told of a romantic local mythos. “But it was kind of difficult to get in touch with them. It’s not a very open community, so when I got there, I had to do some work to connect with them. And then they I asked them about the story, and they said they knew about the story, but they were not interested in telling that story. And I was shocked a bit, expecting to know more.”

RELATED: Director Paz Encina Talks Trauma Of Separation From Loved Ones & Climate Crisis In ‘Eami’ – Contenders International

“I asked them ‘What do you think you would be interested in telling?’ And they were very straightforward: They told me that they wanted me to help them tell what happened to them – what happened to them when they had to leave the forest, what happened to them and their ancestors. And then I started doing that project with them. It was a very small film at the beginning was smaller, I thought about 40 minutes that we could do together, that from there the film grew and grew, and it became Eami.”

Check back Wednesday for the panel video.

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