Damiana Kryygi 2015
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Produced by Alejandro Fernandez Moujan
Directed by Alejandro Fernandez Moujan
DVD, color, 88 min.
College - General Adult
Anthropology, Crimes Against Humanity, Death, Grief, Indigenous Peoples, Museums, Racism, Science
Date Entered: 11/23/2016Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
The story of the Aché people, an indigenous South American hunter-gatherer tribe, is a tragic one. From the first European contact in the 17th century to the present day, these Paraguayan forest dwellers have seen their lands appropriated, their culture destroyed, and their people enslaved and forced onto reservations. The life and death of Damiana, a young Guayakí who died of tuberculosis in 1907, illustrates this history in graphic detail.
Captured as an infant by white settlers and forced into servitude, Damiana was later handed over to German anthropologists for examination and study. On her death at 14 years of age, her corpse was broken apart, with body parts sent to Argentina's La Plata Natural History Museum and her skull sent to Berlin for further scientific study. It was only in 2012 that Damiana’s remains were returned to her land and people, where she was finally buried following traditional customs and rituals.
Director Moujan tells this heart-wrenching story with compassion and respect for both Damiana and the Aché. The film moves seamlessly between the past and present using archival images, among them two ghostly photographs of Damiana months before her death, and narration by those who worked to bring her home. The layered result is a condemnation not only colonialism but more importantly of science that ignores humanity. Although difficult to watch, the film is recommended.