Deforestation rates have doubled in the Amazon rainforest. Brazil's far-right president has embraced the destruction of this precious environmental resource in favor of increased commercial development. Meanwhile, the indigenous people who populate the forest remain largely voiceless and victimized. That is, with the exception of one group - a secretive team known as the Guardians - who hunt down loggers who illegally pillage their home land and bring them to justice. In the tense documentary Guardians of the Amazon, ABC News embeds a camera crew with this group as they embark on a series of raids in the jungle.
Armed with rifles, machetes and bullet proof vests, the Guardians utilize maps, satellite images and good old-fashioned detective work to search for the signs of their prey. Their thirst for retribution is understandable; for as long as many of them can recall, the loggers have pushed them from their homes, cut down their trees, and transformed their plush lands into barren cattle pastures. More than 1/3 of their lands have been destroyed, and the intrusion of the logging and cattle communities show little signs of slowing.
Not all villagers are as adamant in their efforts to stop encroaching industry. In fact, some tribes accept a nominal fee to look the other way. But the Guardians are a different breed. They put their lives on the line to protect their land, which they view as a birthright for their children and grandchildren.
Cameras capture the clan as they track down and interrogate potential loggers at gun point. They eventually happen upon an informer who agrees to guide them to larger operations. A palpable sense of dread and danger blanket their every step through the jungle. By the conclusion of their journey, they will suffer grave injuries and even a fatality.
The president's public rhetoric evokes a disturbing apathy to their plight. The filmmakers' attempts to hold the government's feet to the fire only results in denials.
A terrific work of investigative journalism, Guardians of the Amazon places you in the center of a volatile conflict and gives voice to the warriors who struggle on its front lines.
Directed by: Brian Epstein