ALUNA is a movie documentary sequel to the 1990 feature-length BBC TV documentary made with the Kogi, “From the Heart of the World: The Elder Bothers’ Warning”. It is the Kogis’ intention to change the future of the world by changing our understanding of nature itself. The film follows a group of indigenous people as they visit a series of “sacred” sites, shifting the environmental debate away from the morass of statistical controversy onto wholly new ground. In the process we will engage with this astonishing ancient culture, Colombia’s greatest treasure, and the world will learn to see them and Colombia itself in an unforgettable new light.
I first became aware of the Kogi in 1987, when I was researching for a different film, and I visited the lost city “Ciudad Perdida”. I had read the work of the great anthropologist Geraldo Reichel-Dolmatoff, and visited him. Here was a unique opportunity to explore a pre-Columbian “city” with the guidance of the culture that had built it, which has survived with its memories, culture and world-view extraordinarily un-acculturated.
I also knew that the Kogi ascribed their survival to their avoidance, so far as possible, of contact with us, and that they regarded themselves as being responsible for taking care of the world. I made no attempt to intrude on them but found ways to send a message. “If you want to speak to the world, I can help”. Six months later came the reply: “We are waiting to speak to you. Come.”
So began the most important working relationship of my life. The Kogi spiritual leaders had concluded that their work of caring for the world was rendered useless by the scale of our resource exploitation, and they needed to warn us – even at the risk of exposing themselves and inviting destruction. And we agreed that for their warning to carry weight, they would have to demonstrate who they are, the true inheritors and living guardians of a world-view and knowledge that has been universally and utterly annihilated everywhere else in the Americas.
They knew nothing of television, but their questions were perceptive and highly intelligent, and they were fully conscious of my power to deceive both them and the viewer. They had to decide whether to trust me, so as to allow the audience to enter their world, the world as it was before Columbus and to hear the voices of that world, serious philosophical voices which had never experienced Christian conquest or “modernity”.
My starting point was that I had to learn: I did not know enough to ask any questions. So they set out to teach me, and I realised that here was one of the world’s great treasures. The Kogi inhabit a different way of knowing and experiencing the world, a different form of thought and understanding, which was once universal throughout the high civilizations of America. They have maintained a human reserve of unparalleled importance.
The resulting film, “From The Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers’ Warning” became a classic. First shown in 1990, it received a dozen airings on US TV in 2009. After 20 years, it is still fresh, alive and in demand. I stayed in contact with the Kogi. In 2009 they called me back to say their warning had been unheeded. What had they done wrong? What did they have to do to save us all from destruction?
I said that last time they had relied on words, inviting us to cross into their world and listen to them. We do not learn well from words. What matters is what we see. We had seen them, and remembered that, but their words are forgotten. This time they must cross into our world, and they must show us what they mean, how the inner workings of the world fit together, and the presence of a mind inside nature, Aluna. They want to do this while linking together sites on and beyond their mountain with a golden thread 400 km long.
That is ALUNA.
This time their target is not television but the cinema. A bigger screen. A bigger impact. This is the Kogis’ own movie, commissioned by them. They own 15% of the production company, and are training their own people to work alongside the professionals shooting it as they venture on a remarkable and challenging journey. This is a new kind of cinema, created as a partnership between two worlds.
Alan Ereira – June 2011