Disclaimer: This is a review, and as such will contain opinions, spoilers and (often) general shit talking. (If you talk about what you don’t like about a work, you learn a lot. When you think through a work with the stakes presented to you by the creator, by the context of the work, you learn a lot. I review things, not because I love to dislike things, but because dislike contains rich and vital information for the process of experiencing something, but I cannot access it without interrogating it.) So, if you don’t want to have this thing spoiled for you, or don’t know how to behave when a person on the internet, that you don’t know, has opinions that don’t line up with yours, this review is not for you. It’s also not for the author/creator of the work. Please and thank you.

The Last Forest alternates between documentary observation, staged sequences and dense soundscapes that immerse you into another world.

Luiz Bolognesi documents the indigenous community of the Yanomami, showing us their home, the natural environment in the rainforest, which is being threatened by colonialist-capitalist forces.

There is no narrator. There are no interviews. All the context is provided by the tribe itself, showing us how they live, what they love and what they believe in.

While the crew is present in order to make the film, we only see indigenous tribe members and their struggle to survive in a modern world.

The life of this community in the middle of the rainforest feels peaceful and calm, grounded and purposeful compared to a lot of the trappings of modern life. And the more the rainforest around them is devastated, the harder life gets.

And it’s not as if life isn’t already hard.

Especially, when you depend on your mate to bring back food to feed your family. I don’t want to call it patriarchy, because patriarchy is a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women, and I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of their culture to make that call.

In a small tribe, you’re all depending on each other. But I can see how some alt-right bro with a tradwife might look at this and say, “See? It’s the natural order”.

I shudder at the thought.

“Mamurona made the first baskets.”

On a rainy day, the village women sit together weaving baskets. A woman who has lost her husband (and so her “income”) starts to speak about creating a cooperative.

She begins by saying that the ancestors don’t teach without reason and that by creating a women’s association, the village women could leverage their collective power in trading.

She says, “We could exchange more baskets for food. The baskets we learned from Mamurona. Take what Mamurona taught us to the land of white people. That way we’d depend less on the men. When we have the need, we can make more. We, the women, can weave more if we’re together.”

She goes on to say that “white people” are always after their baskets, and with a women’s association, they wouldn’t go hungry as they could trade more.

First, I have to wonder how this got translated into “white people” because capitalism and destroying the environment isn’t done by only light skinned people. I’d be curious to find out what they call outsiders, if they have adopted this generalised term “white” from modern people and apply it as we do to actually mean privilege and wealth.

Or is it more derogatory? “White” because indigenous people have been directly subjected to the atrocities of researchers from the modern world (as demonstrated in Secrets of the Tribe) who more often then not are light skinned?

I’m not trying to further some agenda about racism against white people here, I’m merely curious as to their language and their words. Because I don’t speak it, I’m left to read the translation made by someone else, someone who has biases and may not be aware of them, or may not have been able to translate it any differently because of a lack of context.

The thing that baffles me quite a bit in modern online discourse, is how broadly the term “white people” is used, typically but not always, by Americans.

The term slave has its origins in the word slav. The slavs, who inhabited a large part of Eastern Europe, were taken as slaves by the Muslims of Spain during the ninth century AD.

To me, the term “white” always indicated Caucasian people, meaning they were light-skinned and of European origin. And the word Caucasian means people from the Caucasus.

The Caucasus (Caucasia) is a region between the Black and Caspian Seas, consisting of Southern Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Known for its alpine terrain, the Caucasus is home to Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain peak in Europe, on the Russo-Georgian border. The region is considered part of the natural boundary between Europe and Asia.

But when the term “white” is being used today, it’s often applied to people who aren’t or don’t identify as white, because there seems to be a severe lack of understanding as to what diversity in the human population really means.

Anyway, in the context of this film, I take that “white people” generally refers to those living in the modern world, with modern sensibilities and amenities, as opposed to in one of the forest tribes. Whether this means “white people” in South America or further afield, I think is probably a moot point, since the tribe’s whole world is the forest around them, and they don’t seem to give that much thought to what the world outside looks like.

Modern “easy life” is attractive to some members of the tribe as well.

Some of them have gone off to live in the modern world. Some of them have come back after finding modern life lonely and unfulfilling. The threat of the younger members of the tribe wanting to go and live with modern people is constant, especially when hunting is not always successful and perilous.

This isn’t an activist documentary about deforestation (although one could argue that, by extension of it’s content, it is that too). This is about the tribe. We learn how they live and how they see themselves, deforestation is an issue that effects them directly and indirectly.

The staged sections are where we learn about their origin myths, how the tribe became to be the tribe. And all the parts in it are played by the people themselves. These stories feel real and intimate, connected to the everyday lives and beliefs of the people in the tribe. To them, these are not just stories, they’re history, they explain the world, they explain existence.

We get to see a tribe with a rich and complex history and culture. The people find comfort in each other when life gets scary, and in many ways this feels like both a window into our shared past and into our evolutionary psychology.

We are hardwired to be social and our current era of all being isolated in our little private echo chambers broadcast through little screens on complex devices is harmful on a deep human level.

The Last Forest is beautifully shot, powerfully “told” and devastating in its reminder how colonialism and capitalism destroy a fundamental part of our humanity. I think these kinds of films are important and we could use a lot more of them.

Want to get more out of reading books?

Grab this FREE guide on how to start a reading journal, complete with review templates, reading trackers and bingo sheets.

Understand yourself better as a reader, engage more with the books you read & create space for creative self-expression. Download now!

When Sasha Barrett gets bitten by a snake on a mission, her squad captain’s quick actions not only save her life, but also make her realise something she may have known all along…

Read it for FREE right here! 🎉