Thee Song of the forest – presented under the title the Dead and others last year in Cannes, in the selection Un certain regard where he obtained the special prize of the jury – was made within a tribe so far almost virgin of any cinematographic representation: the Krahôs, whose territory is located in the state of Tocantins, in northern Brazil. The protagonist, Ihjãc, lives with his wife and baby in a village called Pedra Branca. Hearing the voice of his dead father who asks him to organize the funeral feast that will free his mind, he discovers shamanic powers that affect his body and haunt his thoughts. Hesitant to assume these gifts, torn between an ancestral knowledge painful and a modernity both seductive and predatory, he leaves for a time his family to flee his destiny in the city "whites".
We could classify the song of the forest in the category of ethnofiction, in the sense that Jean Rouch understood it: not simply ethnology-fed fiction, nor ethnology embedded in a fable, but an external and internal approach to a population , observing his manners and his rites while taking into account his imagination, to participate the subjects of the film at its creation. And the imaginary is not here just image, strange or exotic, it is above all a quality of vision and listening that reflects a different relationship to nature, the world, time. A single scene, discreetly dreamlike, at the opening of the film, is enough to bring the esoteric note which will then give a supernatural aura to everything seen or heard, without any other means than the patient recording of images and sounds: the cries of the forest like echoes to the voices of the dead, a fire in the night of which we do not know if it is a game or a magic ritual, a body lying between its deadly gravity and its shamanic aura, a close-up of a parrot that could be the incarnation of a threatening entity …
The undecidable permeability between dream and reality, between the physical senses and the supernatural gifts being presented as daily as domestic gestures, it does not have to be demonstrated by spectacular effects. The real enchantment will come from elsewhere: the strange intensity of these places and the striking beauty of these faces, so far from the usual canons of cinema and its taste for post-colonial exoticism. Not because they would have been embellished by a pretty photograph but because the filmmakers knew how to capture their deep and mysterious photogeny. The song of the forest takes his time or, more exactly, he lets himself be caught by the Krahos' singular time. The duration of the shots, the rhythm of the editing agrees with that of their gestures, their words or their songs, which only the bad habit could describe as slow.
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This temporality allows space to exist differently: in its layers of vegetation, its shades of green, its luminous variations, its incredible sound diversity, roars a world in perpetual movement. And when Ihjãc takes refuge in the city, one feels there all the more our brutal and familiar modernity, where nothing that is seen and heard escapes control, meaning, usefulness. The noises are essentially machines and motors, the invisible voices are the interested calls of preachers and politicians. Everything is too gray or too white, one can only feel nostalgia for the forest. However, Renée Nader Messora and João Salaviza do not do anything: they want to translate, with rare acuteness, the loneliness of an endangered world, whose people know that they could die at any moment by taking with them his secrets, his spells and his joys.
The song of the forest of Renée Nader Messora and João Salaviza with Henrique Ihjãc Krahô, Raene Kôtô Krahô … 1:54.