First Contact” — through indigenous eyes

2 minute read
Image courtesy of the Penn Museum and Video in the Villages.
Image courtesy of the Penn Museum and Video in the Villages.

On March 27, there will be a rare opportunity to see Pirinop, My First Contact (2007), a documentary film about the resettlement of an indigenous tribe in Brazil following their encounter in 1964 with the outside world.

According to the film catalog website of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, "Following their 'first contact' in 1964, the Ikpeng people were relocated to the great Upper Xingu reserve, where their lives would no longer be threatened by settlers. Viewing a filmed record of this signal event in their history evokes a stream of memories and provides a rare account of contact from the indigenous point of view. The consequences of contact and resettlement still have an impact on the community, even as the Ikpeng gain more control over their future."

Pirinop, My First Contact will be screened at the Penn Museum, followed by a discussion with Elizabeth Weatherford, head of the Film and Video Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The film is part of the NMAI catalog.

What’s particularly of interest is that Pirinop, My First Contact was made by the indigenous community itself, through Vídeo nas Aldeias (Video in the Villages), a Brazilian cinema project founded more than 30 years ago, “to strengthen territorial and cultural heritages through audiovisual resources and shared production with the indigenous peoples.”

According to Kate Pourshariati, Film Archivist at the Penn Museum and curator of the monthly “Culture Films” series, Pirinop, My First Contact is "a combination of archival footage taken of the Ikpeng when the Villas Boas brothers encountered the community, together with some of their own contemporary footage. It turns upside down some of the worn tropes of first contact and makes it more personal and internal."

The remarkable Villas Boas brothers are themselves the subject of a new film, Xingu, a fictionalized account of their exploration of the Amazon and their commitment to indigenous issues, including their role in founding Brazil's Xingu National Park.

The event is co-sponsored by Penn Museum, where the Native American Voices exhibition just opened, and the Penn student association, camra.

Pirinop, My First Contact (83 minutes), a free screening, is coming to the Rainey Auditorium of the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia on Thursday, March 27 at 6pm. The film is directed by Mari Corrêa, Kumaré Txicão (Ikpeng), and Karané Txicão (Ikpeng), and will be shown in Ikpeng and Portuguese with English subtitles.

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