воскресенье, 8 марта 2015 г.
Captured: the moment a remote tribesman watches film for the first time
In 1989 I was sent by the BBC to Colombia’s Sierra Nevada with a small film crew to research an archaeological site called the Lost City. When we reached the location we discovered that it was just one of many cities built by the indigenous Kogi, who astonishingly remained there. They had survived centuries of threat by isolating themselves on the mountain, and were reluctant to make contact with the outside world. When I met them, however, it became clear that they had an urgent message – that outsiders were destroying the planet through ecological damage – and invited us to help break their silence. The documentary was eventually titled The Heart of the World: Elder Brother’s Warning. What we found was a society straight out of a storybook. The Kogi all wear white robes; culturally they were extremely advanced but technically, without writing or wheels, they remained a Bronze Age people.
For the six weeks we spent with them the Kogi provided a guide, Arregoces, who was considered a rebel for his interest in the outside world. Their practice is not to punish rebels but to harness their passion by granting them responsibility – and Arregoces proved invaluable for our understanding of the Kogi culture. I explained that in order for the world to hear their message they would need a special machine we had: an eye that remembered and an ear that listened. In this photograph - taken by my assistant, Felicity Nock - I am showing Arregoces that machine, a video camera, and allowing him to watch video playback for the first time.
The Kogi’s reaction to technology was fascinating. We allowed them to film a lot of the material themselves, and I was astonished at how perceptive they were with the camera. In a way they were better than us – when they took photographs or shot video they looked at it as a whole frame, rather than focusing on a subject they were interested in, like we do. Immediately, too, they picked up on the philosophical quandaries of film. Their first question was, ‘What is the experience of watching this? Would someone truly be here if they saw it?’ They followed up with, ‘Would it not be easy to tell lies with this machine?’ and later asked, ‘What happens when a bad man reads a good book?’ I never expected that level of astuteness from a tribal society, which illustrates our misunderstanding of the natural intelligence of indigenous people.
Since that first film I have visited the Kogi at least yearly, making a follow-up film, Aluna, in 2011. Arregoces, once the rebel, is now prominent among the elders, who continue to spread their environmental warning from their mountaintop hideaway.
Interview by Guy Kelly