Following the success of The Colorado, National Sawdust’s second project to examine major watersheds from social
and ecological perspectives will be The Amazon.

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“The largest river in the world runs

through the largest forest… a forest

which is practically unlimited”

This is how the fabled botanist Richard Spruce described Amazonia in 1851.


The Amazon is a documentary feature and a performing arts event, examining the Amazon River Basin from social and ecological perspectives across history. The project pays tribute to the indigenous peoples and natural history of the region; chronicles key events and figures since 1500; and sounds the clarion about looming tipping points that are poised to disrupt the Earth System while annihilating some of nature’s richest and most complex creations. 

Prominent in this story are the Asháninka People, who live in the Andean foothills beside headwaters of the Amazon River in Peru. They have had a long history of protecting their lands against the Inca Empire, the Spanish, and the Shining Path guerrillas. The film follows their current struggle to protect their forests and rivers.

The Xinguano People of Upper Xingu River in Brazil have avoided over two centuries of colonization thanks to impassable rapids and dense forests. Today, industrial agriculture constitutes a fast tightening noose around the habitat where they have lived sustainably for millennia. 

The Amazon provides intimate portrayals of these indigenous communities while presenting the consequences of the great rush for resources through native perspectives. The Amazon also calls out events and people crucial to understanding key phases of Amazonian history, including colonization, Christianization, and the boom and bust of rubber production. 

Surprisingly, the biodiversity and forest integrity of the Amazon survived these traumas, even if a majority of its people did not. But all that has changed. The chainsaws, bulldozers, and other machines of the 20th century have fractured the Amazon’s ecological tranquility, and their impacts on the rainforest now undermine the stability, not just of Amazonia, but of the entire planet, for the Amazon is a linchpin in the structure of Earth’s climate system. 

The portions of the film treating these subjects are richly illustrated with archival and original footage, archival and original maps, and animated graphics. 

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