The news from Brazil is not good for rain forest preservationists, with pro-development candidates winning recent legislative elections in the Amazon Basin and the newly elected government of President Fernando Collor de Mello desperate for revenue. Perfect timing, then, for the video arrival of a celebrated documentary on an Amazon Indian tribe, the Megkronoti, likely to be wiped out by the deforestation. Originally released in 1978, Raoni received an Academy Award nomination and propelled the tribe’s chief, Raoni, into the role of international spokesman for the rain forest cause.
Raoni is openly about politics and not anthropology. It begins with Marlon Brando discussing cultural oppression with some Native Americans, and then draws a parallel with ”tribal people everywhere who want to be left alone” while swooping down along the Xingu River in Brazil’s Mato Grasso wilderness. Arriving at Raoni’s village, we’re told that the Megkronoti are a fierce tribe of hunters whose society is threatened by the developers leveling vast swaths of the surrounding jungle.
So far, so good. Regrettably, Raoni goes no further in its 82 Minutes — sharing little information about the tribe, its society, or the issues and options at play in the preservation battle. Instead, along with leaden visuals, we get vacuous narration that makes vague allusions to destructive Japanese conglomerates and Vatican farming operations and offers wispy paeans to simple primitives living in harmony with nature. C+