James Choi brings us the history and philosophy behind one of the most significant cultural celebrations known as Engage Earth. Celebrating its ninth anniversary, Engage Earth was birthed by Brazilian artist Denise Milan and took place in the city of Heliópolis.
Milan’s inspiration for her art comes from Heliópolis’ most precious treasure — the Amethyst. It starts with the lore of Agregora, the largest and oldest Amethyst. It’s as old as recorded history and bubbled to the surface through persistence and adversity. The Amethyst, itself, is a growing and transformative gemstone and, according to Milan, serves as an allegory to the strong bonds of the people of Heliópolis.
The celebration of Engage Earth involves a performance of Milan’s Opera of the Stones and the community celebration known as the Parade of Precious Lives. Both events remind the citizens of Heliópolis about how strong they’ve grown through struggle and obstacles, like fear, will never stand in their way.
“The Amethyst…a growing and transformative gemstone…serves as an allegory to the strong bonds of the people…”
Engage Earth is a beautiful and thought-provoking documentary. I’m fond of the fact that the people of Heliópolis embrace and celebrate just how far they’ve come as a community. The celebration is beautiful, colorful, and vibrant, and the participation amongst its citizens is incredible.
As a documentary, though, there’s one serious flaw. I’m doing a great deal of research about Engage Earth to fill in the gaps presented in the short film. I generally come in to any film cold, meaning I know as little as possible before watching. The short opens with a story about the Amethyst and artist Denise Milan. Then it moves into the celebration expanding on the two significant events. But I didn’t know anything about the festival, so the shifts and turns in the narrative were confusing. Also, the theme of overcoming adversity runs throughout the film, but nothing is ever said about what specific hardship afflicted Heliópolis and its people.
Context is king. James Choi’s Engage Earth works best if you have prior knowledge of Heliópolis and the celebration. Having prior knowledge that it exists and what it is about is the only way all the information makes sense. Otherwise, you’re going to have to do the research, like me.
"…beautiful and thought-provoking..."