I’ve seen my fair share of documentaries. Though some dare to find the relationship between two distinct issues, Juliana Curi brings together several issues in Uýra – The Rising Forest.
The film opens with a haunting yet beautiful ariel shot of a burnt-out forest in Brazil. Then, in voice-over comes a lyrical commentary about our relationship with nature as the camera pans down into a cave where a performance artist mimes a form of plant life looking to survive.
The performance artist is named Uýra, a non-binary trans-person and the subject of the film. They travel throughout Brazil and use their art to preach the message of environmental protection while bringing awareness to the country’s indigenous community and LGBTQIA+ rights. So yeah, a lot is going on here, and the strength of Uýra – The Rising Forest is how director Curi keeps the subject matter from running out of control.
“…preach the message of environmental protection…[and] the country’s indigenous community and LGBTQIA+ rights.”
As Uýra’s story begins, we see them preparing for a performance piece as Uýra explains its importance. In 1980, the town of Manaus in the state of Pará had a river running through its center, providing the community with an abundance of fresh water. However, elected officials gradually started encouraging their citizens and businesses to dump garbage into it. The results are obviously an ugly river with unhealthy drinking water and more trash than the community can handle. On this day, Uýra conducts a performance piece dressed as a river creature dying in the middle of the debris to the crowds above them.
Uýra’s journey then takes them into the lush forests of Pará, where they mingle with the indigenous people. They highlight the tension the people have to live their simple lives free from the commercialized city and the growing encroachment of the world. Now add on top of that the even more marginalized LGBTQIA+ community. Uýra gathers a group of LGBT members as together they blend their culture, identity, and environmental concerns into a single performance that I would liken to an indigenous drag show.
Uýra – The Rising Forest is not for everyone. The messaging can be heavy-handed at times and very progressive in its tone. At the same time, Uýra is a compelling subject for a documentary and brings a true artist’s eye to their performances. I’m always drawn to foreign documentaries as a way to see the world as it exists without our mainstream filter. In that respect, I was not disappointed.
Uýra – The Rising Forest will premiere at the 2022 Frameline Film Festival in Oakland, CA.
"…Uýra is a compelling subject..."