Beyond Fordlândia is an American documentary, released in 2017, produced, directed and filmed by professor and researcher Marcos Colón, on the legacy of Henry Ford's experience and agribusiness in the Amazon. Through a series of testimonies and images, past and present, Colón makes a connection between the rubber industry of the past and the present soy monoculture, with a critique of the impacts of these activities on society, culture and the environment in the region of the Santarém plateau, in Pará.
|Directed by||Marcos Colón|
|Produced by||Marcos Colón|
|Written by||Michael Moore|
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The Amazon is a page of Genesis yet to be written. This is how it was envisioned, among other works, by Euclides da Cunha and Alberto Rangel, who also coined the nickname Inferno Verde, or Green Hell. In the exuberant and chaotic scenario of the largest tropical rainforest in the world, there is an agonizing actor - man. Centered on the political, economic, cultural and environmental tensions and their impacts on the local life and society at the bosom of the Amazon, Beyond Fordlândia makes a connection between the past of the rubber industry and the present soy monoculture as a highly relevant economic activity in the region of the Santarém plateau.
The viewer is transported to the year 1928 through testimony, memories and archival images of Ford himself. With the endorsement of the Brazilian government, millionaire Henry Ford executed his most ambitious project of planting a vast quantity of rubber trees in the Amazon to guarantee self-sufficiency in latex, which was necessary for the manufacture of car tires. The United States government was confronting the formation of a rubber monopoly commanded by the British crown. After all, at that time, the English product had invaded the world market and cast an image of strength of the Amazonian rubber driving the price to rock bottom.
Ford's ambitious project, the task of which consisting of a chain of rubber trees in the Amazon, the natural habitat of the specie, was installed at a place that soon received the name of Fordlândia, today a district of the town of Aveiro, in Pará, on the banks of the Tapajós river. It is estimated that around one million hectares of forest were cut down, with most of the area earmarked for the plantation and the remaining 20% for the construction of the city itself, with schools, hospitals, warehouses, residential areas, streets, squares and the entire city structure. Professor and writer Greg Grandin, a member of the cast, explored the troubled trajectory of the city and highlights a slightly more abstract objective of latex self-sufficiency: “He was always trying to achieve and conquer something greater than the Amazon. He wanted to impose logic in the form of capitalist production”, says the researcher.
The film's narrative progresses with testimony from journalist Lúcio Flávio Pinto, the only Brazilian on the NGO Reporters without Borders list of the 100 most influential reporters in the world, who highlights that the rubber cycle remains something of an addictive memory, which recalls times of sumptuousness and overshadows the fragility of an economic cycle that repeats itself today in the models of mining and soy. Belterra, the second city founded by Ford's companies in the forest, was the laboratory for experiments with soy. The businessman intended to use derivatives of the grain in various types of machinery and determined the development of research and projects to that end.
The bankruptcy of Ford's initiative in the Amazon came with 18 years of accumulated failures. The rubber trees, protected by the forest's animal and vegetal diversity in their natural habitat, were defenseless victims of fungus when planted together in series. Soy, however, was established at a vigorous, unstoppable pace. Professor Marcus Barros, former director of Ibama, reports that the impact of soybean production on the fauna, on traditional communities and on public health is extremely serious, and makes an appeal for us to “not let soy advance on any more trees whatsoever within the Amazon”, in interview.
With a cast that includes indigenous people, quilombolas, poets, professors, researchers, journalists, healthcare agents and soy producers, Beyond Fordlândia investigates the roots of the soy phenomenon which today compromises the memory, the present and the future of the forest and of Amazonian man.
The director of Beyond Fordlândia, Marcos Colón, is American with a Brazilian mother, Teaching Assistant of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduate associate of the Center for Culture, History and Environment of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. The researcher studied the representation of the Amazon in 20th century Brazilian literature, with specific focus on the work of Mário de Andrade and the ecocritical approach. Upon discovering a note in a travel diary of the modernist, entitled “The apprentice tourist”, Colón decided to pay a visit to the location as part of the field stage of his research. From there the academic investigation became connected to the memory of Ford's experience in the Tapajós basin, which today is also impacted by the large scale cultivation of soy, Brazil expected to become the world leader in exportation of soy, to pass the United States.
Beyond Fordlândia was formally presented in the United States at the Beloit International Film Festival, in March 2018. The official release occurred in Rio de Janeiro, at a special session of the Filmambiente Festival, on November 14th 2017. During its release year, the film was shown at festivals and research institutions, including the cinema program of the 8th World Water Forum.
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