52 minutes Colour
Director: Carlos Pasini
Anthropologist: Thomas Gregor
The Mehinacu live near the head-waters of the River Xingu in Central Brazil, in a single village within the protective confines of the Xingu National Park. Although the film concentrates upon the most exotic aspects of Mehinacu life, focusing on a series of rituals concerned with the planting and harvesting of the piqui tree, these rites are firmly located in their social context: relations between the sexes in this society are formalised in an astonishing abundance of ritual, celebration, dances and games, performed to ensure fertile soil and good crops.
Many sequences deal with the daily life of the Mehinacu, showing, for example, the sexual division of labour, with men fishing and women preparing manioc. The use of subtitled interviews provides a depth and sensitivity in the film's approach which helps to underline the concern with the fact that these Indians are seriously threatened by a road which is being cut through their territory. One of the highlights of the film is an interview with a Mehinacu elder who tells of the origin myth of the sacred flutes, a myth which is part of a complex belief system that will be lost if the Mehinacu, who are such a small group, are not able to survive under the pressures of the outside world.
The film could be used to stimulate discussions of sex role differences, sexual division of labour in particular societies, and the connection between ritual and social relationships.
T. Gregor 1970. `Exposure and Seclusion: A Study of Institutionalized Isolation among the Mehinacu Indians of Brazil'. Ethnology, Vol. 9, pp. 234250.
T. Gregor 1973. `Privacy and Extramarital Affairs in a Tropical Forest Community'. In D. Gross (ed.) Peoples and Cultures of Native South America. Natural History Press, Garden City.
T. Gregor 1974. `Publicity, Privacy and Mehinacu Marriage'. Ethnology, Vol. 13, pp. 333349.
T. Gregor 1977. Mehinacu: The Drama of Daily Life in a Brazilian Indian Village. University of Chicago Press.
S. Hugh-Jones, 1975. Review of the film. RAIN, 6, p.9.