A joint project of the award-winning filmmaker and journalist duo Hernán Vilchez and Tracy L. Barnett, the series draws on the tools of journalism, film and photography to tell the diverse and compelling stories of nearly 30 indigenous communities in six different South American countries. They have drawn on the talents of 14 local and Native film crews, enabling them to enter remote reserves and villages in the Amazon, the Andes and beyond — places Westerners rarely reach. During the height of the pandemic, these contributors conducted in-depth interviews with traditional healers, community leaders, wisdom keepers, youths and elders.
Other collaborators in the cities interviewed academics, scientists, health professionals and other experts. Collectively they came away with rare and insightful indigenous perspectives on the causes, prevention, treatments and lessons from the pandemic. Their reflections and shared experiences elevate the question of what we as a society must do to avoid the future health and environmental crises that threaten the survival of humanity and the intricate web of life on the planet.
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The idea for the series began when a Shipibo bilingual teacher named Percy reached out to Vilchez from the remote Peruvian Amazon after having healed himself from an intense month-long struggle with Covid. He had met Vilchez seven years earlier when the filmmaker was in his village producing a documentary film, and the two stayed in touch. When Vilchez heard Percy’s eye-opening account of how he and his neighbors were addressing the pandemic in the face of complete abandonment from the outside world, he knew he had to do something. He called Barnett; Barnett contacted the Pulitzer Center; and the series developed from there.
The series is built on four episodes; the first one, now available, is set in Colombia. “Episode I — Cosmology & Pandemic in Colombia: The Body as Territory” takes the viewer and reader into three very different communities. There you will meet Taita Angel Pasuy Miticanoy, a land-use planner who takes his guidance from the cosmos with the regular assistance of ayahuasca, a sacred psychotropic plant infusion used to receive visions by the Kamëntšá Biyá people and many others.
You’ll meet Mama Adriana Velasco, a young wisdom keeper and doctor trained in the indigenous Misak tradition; and you’ll learn the profound reflections of Mamo Camilo, Mamo Adolfo and Mamo Elkin, spiritual guides of the Arhuaco people who are trained from childhood to read nature like a book. Called the Prophets of the Sierra Madre, these wise elders predict there will be further calamity, including four pandemics, unless humanity rapidly changes our ways, finding balance and our connection to the Earth.
Readers and viewers can access these three emblematic peoples in English and Spanish at www.cosmopandemic.esperanzaproject.com through the lyrical and powerful 23-minute film that gives an overview of the series from the perspective of the healers, leaders, professionals and youths of those communities. From there, viewers can enter the pages of the bilingual magazine The Esperanza Project/El Proyecto Esperanza to read in-depth stories on each of the ethnicities, illustrated with beautiful photography taken inside the remote villages by our local and indigenous colleagues.
Future episodes will include: Andean Cosmovision, An Ancient Path to Health; Amazonian Wisdom, The Territory as Healing Source; and Matto Grosso: Diversity and Crisis in Brazil. Readers and viewers can sign up at the website for alerts about further coverage, including upcoming episodes, related news coverage and excerpts from the interviews with our experts, wisdom keepers and healers. These alerts will be published by The Esperanza Project in the weeks and months ahead.
The Esperanza Project/El Proyecto Esperanza is a non-profit bilingual online magazine and media empowerment project covering social change in the Americas. Esperanza Project Film and TV is an international interdisciplinary team committed to producing films and series that raise awareness in our society. Together, we are convinced that stories are a powerful tool to change the world, and we are working tirelessly to bring those stories to life.
Note: For media outlets, we can provide an excellent selection of high-resolution photos in the format that you need. Our trailer and a teaser, as well as the full-length video, are available in English and Spanish.
For allies and social media partners, we have prepared a special toolkit that will provide you with images, a trailer and teasers and the poster for the series for sharing in your networks. We can also prepare a Mailchimp, Mailerlite or HTML document for your newsletter list. You may access that toolkit HERE.
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