Review by Adam Donato
Coming to theaters at the end of this summer is one of the best documentaries of the year. With a litany of awards nominations and wins this year already, it will be exciting to see what kind of splash The Territory will make at the box office. Alex Pritz had co-directed a few documentary shorts, but this is his first feature length documentary solely directed by him. The film follows an Indigenous group of people living in the Amazon rainforest as they try to protect their land from an association of Brazilian farmers who seek deforestation. Will this important story make waves at the box office this weekend and through its expansion?
The first thing to mention about this documentary is the visuals. It amplifies the pro-environmental message immensely to see the beauty of the land they call home, especially when it shows the contrast to the land that had been burnt down and cleared out. It's no surprise here that National Geographic would have the technical aspects of their documentary all buttoned up.
Not only does this documentary invoke sympathy for the land, but for the Indigenous people as well. The Territory mostly follows an environmental activist who has dedicated her life to protecting the land and its people. There’s also a lot of time dedicated to the new leader of the group elected by the elders. Listening to the perspective of the youths is heartbreaking as it has been made clear this has been a longstanding issue. The elders speak about how in the past they pursued war with invaders, but now are different times. The ability to experience their struggle first hand justifies this story being brought to light. The more people that become aware of this problem, it will hopefully open some eyes.
Another person who is given the spotlight is the leader of the association of Brazilian farmers. The Territory does a good job of making its point and taking a side, but doesn’t shy away from showing the antagonist’s perspective. By the end of the story, it’s easy to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s selfish and destructive, but in a cruel world, they’re just trying to survive. That’s another example of how heart-wrenching this story is. So many people are being negatively impacted in the documentary, not to mention the worldwide consequences of deforestation.
The Territory is a story about empathy and values. This true story is overwhelmingly important and depressing. Don’t let that downer description dissuade you from checking this one out, as it showcases the power of the human spirit in a way that almost restores faith in humanity. Be sure to check this one out in theaters and expect to hear this movie continued to be in the awards season conversation.
The Territory hits theaters on August 19.