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Spotlight: In the Front Line to Save the World's Oldest Biome

By David Schonauer   Thursday August 30, 2018


The Cerrado covers 25 percent of Brazil’s land mass.

This savannah in the central part of the country is  the world’s oldest biome, or community of plants and animals, notes Fabio Erdos, a Brazilian documentary filmmaker and photographer whose work focuses mostly on non-profit and foundation projects. But, he adds, the Cerrado is being cleared for developed at an exception rate — twice as fast as the Amazon region of Brazil. Despite its richness in flora and fauna, the Cerrado is not considered a National Heritage region like the Amazon and Brazil's Atlantic Forest.

“Some researches say it has lost more than half of it’s native vegetation to different kinds of monoculture,” says Erdos.

In collaboration with the Brazilian chapter of the non-profit ActionAid International, Erdos, a PPD reader, shot a series of three short films called Guardians of the Cerrado for a campaign to protect the region. The films show a little of the daily life (and struggles) of three traditional communities from the region. We feature them below.

“The organizers of the campaign gave me total freedom to create and develop the concept of the films,” says Erdos. “The goal was to bring attention to this reality — something that, surprisingly, most of the population in Brazil does not know about. We didn’t want it to make a very informative, educational film about the Cerrado, so we came up with the concept of showing a little glimpse of what is the routine and the daily life of three traditional communities that live in one of the areas of the region and that, very importantly, haven’t been impacted by the agribusiness in the region. That wasn’t easy to find since most of them have, in some way, been affected by it.

In the end, Erdos focused on an indigenous community, a traditional community of "Coconut Breakers" and a Quilombo community founded by former slaves.


Below, Erdos describes the production of the three films:

We had a minimum crew — it was me and my colleague, Marcelo Engster, who was responsible for the audio and other assistance. I wanted to make sure I was able to have a considerable time in each community, and the ActionAid non-profit supported me in that. As most filmmakers and video journalists know, the time spent in the field, actually filming, is usually very short. I wanted to make sure we had some time to film with the best light possible, and also to have one or two days just to get to know the communities and the people in them and find amazing characters. Our goal was to find a single person who would play a fundamental role, guiding the audience through the film. Out of the five days in each community, we reserved the first one or two days without picking up on our equipment, just walking around, meeting everyone and seeing their routines. This played a very important role and influence on the final result of the films.

Erdos shot the three films with a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR and a DJI Mavic Pro to capture aerial images of the environment.

“We wanted to enhance the connection between the people and the land and show how important that relationship was to their livelihood,” says Erdos. “At the same time, we wanted to show the impacts of the monocultures on the environment and how these communities feel that their livelihood and traditions are in risk because of this development of agricultural expansion of specific commodities.”

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