Author Topic: Alan Ereira's Film "Heart of the World: Elder Brother's Warning"  (Read 6753 times)

Offline educatedindian

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Alan Ereira's Film "Heart of the World: Elder Brother's Warning"
« on: September 26, 2010, 01:28:01 pm »
I got this message today about the film Heart of the World, which the author argues is largely a hoax and deliberate deception done to make money off the Kogi tribe in Colombia. Certainly needs more research.

There's some fear that this person could face having Britain's very strict libel laws used against them so some information has been left out.

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Dear New Age Frauds and Plastic Shaman

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful site. I was lucky enough to stumble across it early on in my research into a hunch about a new age fraud that is currently being ramped up in the name of the Kogi Indians, who live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Santa Marta .  The post (exposing Seqoyah Trueblood) only mentioned the Kogi and Alan Ereira’s movie about them (The Heart of the World: the Elder Brother’s Warning) in passing, but it gave me confidence that I was on the right track and so I continued my research.

....The most crucial pieces of information and links to the sources [are] on a Facebook page entitled Kogi Facts Not Fiction. You can view it there by just entering Kogi in the search window.

....The fraud came to light, to me, this past week when Alan Ereira came and paraded a Kogi (or someone claiming to be, who really knows) around the UK and did a much-hyped live webcast on a site called esoguru.com.  Many, many things started to ring alarm bells and then I did research.

I attended the live Webcast (9 Euros – I’m still waiting for a response to my request for a refund) the other day and also participated in the international webchat that went alongside it.  In addition to embarrassing technical problems from esoguru.com (which also looks like a great big scam site) the whole thing was a giant letdown if you were really expecting some brainblowing “message” from the Kogi.  Typically, only a minority of those on the webchat seemed to notice this, the rest being in a the thrall of a new age swoon at the prospect of seeing a real Kogi live from London, but there were definitely several others going “….waitaminit…what’s going on here….where’s the message…”.  Before esoguru shut us down so we couldn’t discuss what had just happened, I managed to share email addresses with another person who had become increasingly skeptical.  Our subsequent email exchange inspired me to look into matters further.

In addition, my suspicions were then inflamed by a short but nasty email I received from Alan himself...I was embarrassingly taken in by the dupe....there did not appear to be any new message and that he had ignored some of the most popular questions being submitted by web chat, concerning such things as calendrical systems (which on retrospect I realized he HAD to ignore in order to keep people’s imaginations making all these wild associations with things like the Mayan Prophecy for example – like a lot of conmen he gets a lot of mileage over what he DOESN’T say, but merely leads or allows people into misconceiving)....

The fraud part is not that the Kogi exist, are a beautiful people with a fascinating way of life, an unbroken connection with nature nor is it untrue that they have an old spiritual system that they observe. The problem (ka ching ka ching) is the spin that Alan is putting on things.  Basically, he is selling the idea that they have some sort of ultimate “message” that is always being dangled and never quite comes out.  The good-hearted but gullible new agers are investing this promise with a lot of outlandish expectations of some kind of super-incredible knowledge from an ancient mystical wisdom culture to be forthcoming. The wilder assertions link them to extraterrestrials and are depicting them as the survivors of some ancient mystical kingdom.  This is in complete opposition to the historical fact of the migratory history of these Indians (Chibchas) who in fact came from Central America in around 1000 AD.  I am not pointing this out to denigrate the civilization that they did in fact form, but I believe people are being led to erroneously think of it as truly in the mists of time as of the Pharoahs or the contemporaneous South American city of Capal , ( Peru ) which was indeed highly advanced around 26000 BC.  All of these misconceptions about who these people really were and when they went into the jungle, have created an atmosphere around the Kogi as though they are the last survivors on the face of the entire planet who have any clue whatsoever as to how to live correctly. It is as if the Kogi are going to tell modern humanity how to undo the damage that has been done.  In fact, I believe that ALL the noble Native peoples of this world are trying to remind us of what we have forgotten but not that they have magical superpowers that can tell us what on earth we’re supposed to do to fix things!  

From my independent research into other sources, such as the work of photojournalist Stephen Ferry (again links to all this stuff are on the FB page) the MESSAGE of the Kogi is pretty simple: the paramilitary activity in the area is freaking us out, so is the de-forestation, you guys really need to remember to respect nature. What more do we need? Seems pretty uncomplicated to me!

Alan has so far managed to dominate information on these people and makes it seem as though he is the only one in touch with him.  He perpetuates this partly by spelling things slightly differently and singling out the Kogi who are usually referred to collectively as either Tayrona or Tairona or the Sierra Nevada Indians, as there are two other extremely similar groups there. If you search in other ways and with other spellings, you find out other info.

I believe these people’s situation is poignant, precarious, and urgent enough without dressing it up in the emperor’s new (age) clothes.

Meanwhile, Alan sends around begging letters...asking for 75,000-150,000 (and that pounds not dollars) so that he can go back down there and make another movie because the Kogi have another “message” for us.

Amongst the worst misconceptions about the Tairona ancestry that Alan spreads around is the one that these people were forced into the mountains by the Spanish Conquest which is blatantly untrue. In fact, it was the Caribs, coming back from the Caribbean to South America , that pushed the Tairona into the interior, several hundred years earlier. This is the very reason WHY the Tairona were able to stay relatively undisturbed by the Spanish Invasion.  But Alan has done a clever thing by identifying “the West” as the reason for the flight and by falsely identifying the “younger brother” of myth with the Spaniards.  In this way, he taps into the “white guilt” that drives much of the new age culture’s gullible appetite for new age frauds perpetuated in the names of “indigenous shaman.” As if the legacy of the conquest isn’t horrific enough, he wants it to take place somewhere that mercifully escaped it!  

In fact, as I have discovered the whole “elder brother/younger brother” Kogi myth, which forms the backbone of Alan’s manipulative narrative, goes back even further than the Carib, who would have been just an earlier fulfillment of this truly ancient myth.  As your researchers may know, non-Peruvian South American mythology has a common thread of two warring brothers, one of whom is mischievous and brings disasters.

Nowadays, yes ALL outsiders and of course the modern industrial world of environmental destruction are collectively identified as “younger brother” but it does not specifically refer to the Spanish conquest whatsoever. Like the return of the Caribs, that would just be another layer of real events supporting archetypal myths as happens everywhere with all peoples living in the “magical thinking” mindset that is the universal primordial tradition.

These people don’t need Alan (who has appointed himself their “messenger”) to go make another movie about them, and they don’t have anything more to say than what’s already been said. Isn’t that enough!

Interestingly, his first film “The Heart of the World: the Elder Brother’s Warning” ended dramatically with the Kogi escorting the film crew back down the mountain and saying that it was their last and final word on the matter.

Alan must have later realized the potential reward$ of the sequel and gone “Do(ug)h! Better undo that one!

Because I live in the UK now where the libel laws do not protect freedom of speech the way they do in the USA , I have not named Alan or his films on my FB page. But if you are based in the US then you are free to out him publicly making use of any of the materials I share on my FB page as you will be legally protected. I also have other sources and more details depending on how deep you wanna go into this.

When I was originally moved to tears by Alan’s extremely well-made docu-fiction I prayed that I could someday do something to help the Kogi....

Ironically, it seems that my prayer has been granted – maybe I can help get this leech away from them.

Your help in this urgent would be gratefully appreciated....

Offline educatedindian

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Re: Alan Ereira's Film "Heart of the World: Elder Brother's Warning"
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2010, 02:05:19 pm »
One thing that came out of that film was the establishing of Tairona Heritage Trust. Even on that trust's site, there's some strong criticism of the film (bolded).

There are clips of the film on youtube, and from what I saw the criticisms are on target. It seems to me anyone wishing to help the Kogi would be far better, you know, helping them rather than helping Ereira make another inaccurate film.

The best ways to do that would be to contribute to their trust directly which helps buy up their traditional land that's been taken away. The other way would be to try to end the war down there that the US is making worse. American tax dollars fund Plan Colombia, which goes to the war there.

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http://tairona.myzen.co.uk/index.php/about/the_film_from_the_heart_of_the_world_the_elder_brothers_warning/

It is undoubtedly Ereira’s documentary which has enabled the Trust to engender the interest and support it has. Initially shown in 1990, it was subsequently presented at the Rio Summit in June 1992, has been given prime time in the USA on a number of occasions and been presented on other national TV networks in Europe and elsewhere. At 90 minutes long, an unusual length for any documentary, it was prepared with a lot of input and editorial control from the Mamas. There is a specially commissioned orchestral score on the soundtrack and it makes use of filmic techniques (elaborate fade-ins and superimpositions etc) that are not normally associated with such documentaries. Actors, including Donald Pleasance and Jack Shepperd, are used to give voice to Kogi speech and narration is by Alan Ereira. There are interviews with experts such as Martin von Hildebrand (then Director of Indian Affairs), Alvaro Soto (Director of Excavations for ‘The Lost City’), and Frankie Rey, the tomb-robber who first found the ‘Lost City’.

Scenes of Kogi life are entwined with scenes of contemporary Colombian life as a counterpoint. The film incorporates a history of the Spanish Conquest and footage of tomb-robbers at work is used as a metaphor for the continuing rapaciousness of western culture. The Kogi are allowed to portray themselves in interviews and set pieces. The hierarchical nature of their society is soon described, and much is made of the role of the Mamas and of their education. We are shown the Kogi at work - clearing paths, working an old Spanish sugar-press, working the loom, planting etc.. Other scenes inform us of the use and symbolism of the ‘poporo’ and a female Mama explains how this lime is prepared.

Popular appreciation for the film was immediate and reviews from television critics were favourable, but it has caused controversy and debate amongst anthropologists. Typical criticism comes from Alan Campbell who criticises the film as an example of a cultural commodity ‘where presentation comes before anything else.’ (Campbell, MacClancy and McDonagh 1996: 61-2). He contrasts it unfavourably with the ‘thoughtful, careful, clever’ work (ibid) of Brian Moser’s early Disappearing Worlds films and presents it as a product of ‘the present political and cultural climate [in which] (f)rivolity, shallowness and profit rule the airwaves.’ (ibid).

This sort of criticism stems, I suggest, from the use of the filmic techniques mentioned above. Film experts, when analysing their craft, draw a distinction between feature film, which tends to concentrate on an emotional and normally fictional message, and documentary, which aims at an objectively truthful account of a real situation. To achieve this objectivity, documentary filmmakers tend to avoid the techniques of feature film for those of ‘observational realism’ and minimalism. It is believed that if the director uses the techniques the audience associates with feature film, then the film is in danger of being associated with the emotional pull of such films, and consequently with fiction. By flouting this convention, Ereira tempts the objections of those committed to observational realism.

Ereira himself would defend the film on the grounds that ‘the necessity of selectivity and the demand for a dramatic narrative force the producer towards an artificially simple and inevitably slanted presentation. In Beauchamp and Klaidman’s judgment, “The search for ‘truth’ ... becomes a search for a preconceived ‘moment’… that captures the ‘essence of truth’ in the mind of the documentary maker.” ‘ (Gross, Katz, & Ruby 1988: vii-viii).

Donald Taylor, of the Pitt-Rivers Museum Oxford, reviewed it at the request of Dr. Marcus Banks. He recognizes and accepts that ‘the methods used are not strictly in accord with what one would expect from a serious ethnographic film. Thus it is difficult for a reviewer to separate effect from content.’ (Tayler 1993: 219-220). However, he finds it ‘remarkable’ that the film contains so many scenes of intimate social events, admits its ‘seductive power’ (ibid:221) and praises ‘Ereira’s ability to synthesize the complex web of themes - archaeological, historical, mythological, ethnographic and ecological - in the brief space of ninety minutes’. (ibid: 220).

In a reply to Tayler, Graham Townsley describes it as a film which ‘dovetailed [the Mamas] desires to a remarkable degree’ (Townsley 1993: 225), and points to its polyvocality. ‘Once they had overcome their considerable misgivings about the making of the film they were very clear: they would control the whole process as carefully as possible… They would show us what they wanted to show us and, in a sense, stage their own representation of themselves.’ (ibid: 224). He has his criticisms of the film ‘On purely aesthetic grounds there are a few moments when I feel the film goes over the top. It is also, for instance, factually misleading if it suggests that the Kogi live in a sort of Lost World and that Alan and the film crew were the first ones to penetrate it. In fact, although by and large they keep themselves very much to themselves, the Kogi have had regular contact with Europeans and Colombians since the conquest, are now peripherally involved in local markets, herd cattle, grow coffee, etc.’, (ibid: 224) but the ‘style of the film is peculiarly appropriate to its content and intention.’ (ibid: 223). He concludes that Ereira was ‘by sensibility and training… much better qualified to make their film than the conventional ethnographic filmmaker.’ (ibid: 226).

So much for the serious criticism of the film. At the other end of the scale, Michael Hirsch reviewed the video for ‘Earth Matters’ (Issue 30) in 1996. He referred to the Kogi as ‘patronising’, Ereira as ‘gullible’ and the message of the film as ‘hokum’. Correspondence ensued!

In 1992, Tairona Heritage Trust representatives visited Santa Marta and shot a 10 minute update called ‘Return to the Kogi’. It features footage of a village, Bonga, being built on land recently purchased with Tairona Heritage Trust funds, interviews with Amparo Jiminez and Gonavindua Tairona officials, and an interview with Ramón Gil on the importance and method of correct reforestation.

References

Campbell, Alan. ‘Tricky Tropes - Styles of the Popular and the Pompous’ in MacClancy, Jeremy and McDonagh, Chris (eds). Popularizing Anthropology. Routledge. 1996.
Gross, Larry Katz J.S. & Ruby J. Image Ethics - the Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television. Oxford University Press. 1988.
Tayler, Donald.’Film Review - From the Heart of the World’ in Visual Anthropology 6:219-221. Harwood Academic Publishers. 1993.
Townsley, Graham. ‘Comment - Lost Worlds Found: Advocacy and Film Rhetoric’ in Visual Anthropology 6:223-226. Harwood Academic Publishers. 1993.