Secrets of the Tribe

José Padilha
Brazil 2010 | 94 Min. | DigiBeta, OmeU

Direc­tor José Padil­ha’s eye­open­ing new doc­u­men­tary cen­ters on the pop­u­lar field of Yanoma­mi Indian stud­ies, but they aren’t the tribe in ques­tion. The secrets being exposed are those of the tribe of intel­lec­tu­als and aca­d­e­mics who have built their rep­u­ta­tions and careers by study­ing the Yanoma­mi. Anthro­pol­o­gists descend­ed on the remote tribe begin­ning in the 1960s, believ­ing them to be the per­fect exam­ple of a pure, untouched, prim­i­tive soci­ety. But the career making oppor­tu­ni­ties that the research pro­vid­ed quick­ly led to decades of petty squab­bles which esca­late from accu­sa­tions of aca­d­e­m­ic fraud to shock­ing alle­ga­tions of med­ical, eth­i­cal, and sexual trans­gres­sions. As the sever­i­ty of the accu­sa­tions increas­es. Padil­ha skill-fully inter­weaves archival footage and ever-increas­ing amounts of tes­ti­mo­ny from the Yanoma­mi them­selves to con­firm or debunk the anthro­pol­o­gists’ state­ments. Using this clever tech­nique to reveal the anthro­pol­o­gists’ egos and incon­sis­ten­cies, SECRETS OF THE TRIBE chal­lenges the viewer to ques­tion the sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and colo­nial nature of indige­nous research with­out offer­ing any easy answers.