Filmmaker and film from lost city to open this year’s festival
One of Britain’s leading documentary filmmakers is to open this year’s Orkney International Science Festival – bringing with him a remarkable new film in which people from a lost city in South America open up a dialogue with western scientists.
Alan Ereira worked at the BBC from 1965 onwards, contributing documentaries to series such as Timewatch, and went on to collaborate with Terry Jones on a number of series, including Crusades, Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, and Terry Jones’ Barbarians.
He is also a writer and historian, and co-authored with Terry Jones the companion books to the various series they worked on together. He later produced and narrated the UKTV series on the kings and queens of England.
He was awarded the Japan Prize for his radio documentary on the Battle of the Somme, and a Royal Television Society award for his documentary series on the Armada.
In 1990 he directed a film for the BBC which has become known around the world. From The Heart of the World: the Elder Brothers’ Warning was made with the Kogi people of Colombia, whose isolation from the modern world has enabled them to keep their traditional culture intact.
The Kogi survived the attacks of the Spanish conquerors by retreating high up into the mountainous area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where they faded from sight. Even today they resist any direct interaction with the modern world.
They see themselves as caretakers of nature, and the Sierra as a microcosm of the planet. Since the 1970s they have become very concerned about changes in the flora, fauna and temperature of their territory which signal a global crisis.
As a result, they took the opportunity of helping Alan Ereira make a film with them, to send a warning to the modern world. They speak of the people of the western world as their ‘Younger Brothers’, whose culture is ignorant and irresponsible. They seek to help us, in order to protect life on earth.
After the film was made, the Kogi returned to their work in isolation and asked outsiders not to come to their land. As time went on and environmental changes continued, they decided that a second film was needed and they asked Alan Ereira to return.
“Younger Brother must listen and stop causing damage or nature herself will finish us off.”
For the new film Aluna, they were closely involved in the production, formed part of the film crew themselves, and directed particular sequences. Their aim was to show the world the seriousness of the situation, and also to sit down with western scientists and explain their approach.
The trailer for the film gives some impressions of its scope.
“The earth is a living body,” they say. “It has veins and blood. Damaging certain places is like cutting off a limb. It damages the whole body.”
The result is a unique film, which is coming to the Science Festival for preview before general release. It will be shown at the Phoenix Cinema on the Festival’s opening day, Thursday 5 September, preceded by From The Heart of the World.
The film includes various dialogues between the Kogi and western scientists, with topics ranging from ecology to cosmology and astronomy.
One of the scientists in the new film will be coming to Orkney for its showing. He is marine biologist Prof. Alex Rogers of Oxford University who is the co-founder of the International Programme for the State of the Ocean. He is scientific adviser to various international conservation bodies, and has explored deepwater sites in the Indian Ocean and the Antarctic to find life in places as diverse as hydrothermal vents and coldwater corals. Prof. Rogers comes from a fishing family on the west coast of Ireland and has captained one of the British Antarctic Survey vessels working on Antarctic research.