Isolated: The Zo'é Tribe

Isolated: The Zo'é Tribe

2000, Nature  -   37 Comments
Ratings: 7.71/10 from 194 users.

In this inhabited jungle, the human voice is an ancestral melody and open secret in a silent and forbidden territory. The cellphone fever hasn't reached here yet, but their need for communication is as important as ours. It's 8am and one must go out to find food as in any other part of the world. The heads of these families do so in groups, working together and mutually helping each other in order to turn the impossible into something possible, hunting monkeys, and other inhabitants of the upper regions.

The macaque they are searching for are dwarves that are invisible to our urban eyes, eyes incapable of looking beyond our belly buttons. But for them, aside from being visible, they constitute the hunter's basic diet. Fifteen people are participating in this choral chase. Everyone has their place and duty. And it will be this way until death claims them.

Because of its taste, the spider monkey, the largest primate of the Amazon ecosystem is the animal that is most appreciated in this village. But today, many other different species crossed their paths. The prego macaque and the wariva are also delicious. The Zo'é call the latter the kiki, and they won't let it get away if they can help it. They're very active prey and in order to catch them, it's important to immobilize them. That's precisely what they do with their streams of arrows and also why they strike on the trees, making noise and confusing them, cutting off any possible escape.

It's almost impossible to drive an arrow through one of these agile animals but nonetheless, they try it over and over again. They don't give up. After two hours, the macaque are tired and frightened but convinced that the 50 meters that separate them from the ground will dissuade the hunters. These poor monkeys are not familiar with the pride and the stubbornness of a young Amazon Indian boy.

Various young men turn into ape men and elegantly, effortlessly climb up the tree trunk all the way to the top in search of the animals. The village people admire them and between all of them, it's as if they were telepathically pushing them on. After all, the feast depends on their success. They're armed and climb with the help of ropes tied to their feet. Whether from the tops of the trees or from the ground, the Zo'é marksmanship is an invincible adversary for the monkeys. Today, they would have preferred to defy the jaguar instead of the almighty homo sapiens. Sooner or later, the large naked primate is always victorious. The hunters' sharp arrowheads have torn into the reddish body of these wadivas.

In order to return home without foul odors, and also to keep the gain from spoiling due to the midday heat, it's wise to remove its entrails and prepare it for the journey. We forget that our freezers are also full of corpses. Others do the slaughtering for us. Everyone learns and everyone teaches here in this open-air school where hunting skills combine with a fine air for cuisine.

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37 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Naturewonderer

    Great film. I’d like to know more about the workings of the family relationships. Sharing a wife with three other guys sounds a little tough at first, jealousy and such, but after a bit of reflection it has its appeal. 25% of the responsibilities for the wife, and only 25% of the honey do list, that’s not too bad. She seems busy though. All that clean living and being so close to nature must make a guy, uh, hungry. Do they sneak off as a couple for some privacy, or share the experience with the rest of the household?

  2. Globehopper

    If only this was the next step on our evolution ladder, there might still be some hope for the human race!

  3. mohandoss Balamurugan

    When I watch this documentary I genetically aweken.i gotthe feeling that I am one of them .I hate this modern corrupted society and civilization. If they allow I would become one of them.being and becoming nature is the godly thing that's the spritualway thought by the spiritual guru Osho.god is not a single man to create all the things .the sun,moon,stars,mountains,the forest,rivers,birds,flowers and the zoes in these every things I see the godliness. Thanks for the wonderful documentary.

  4. Nature friend

    Thanks oil is not there ... otherwise western civilised world would have disturbed their way of life long time back

  5. watcher

    On the whole - a great documentary, I loved the fact that the presenter didn't try to analyse (mostly anyway) what was happening and just let the viewer to get glimpses into the lives of this tribe. At the same time there's a slight patronizing air about the documentary here and there - like comparing certain practices of the tribe to such of the western world. Trying to equalize them making the later a kind of a benchmark - but why should these practices be equal?? They aren't and they don't need to be! The practices of the tribe might actually be better, or might be worse or just altogether incomparable due to the surrounding circumstances! And it also made me laugh how much the presenter was trying and failing to be "just one of the guys" like by holding a boy on his knee and a girl just next to him, both looking obviously super uncomfortable and out of their place - poor things :) Apart from very few such displays it is a very well made documentary and I wish there were more like this one.

  6. Silence141

    Read "Ishmael" and the novels that followed by Daniel Quinn and give this documentary a second view.

  7. Saurabh Bhatt

    Life with lesser tension, nil gazettes...So simple with overall harmony...What's their average life span??? Hope, rest of the human societies will not try to change their original life....Let them live the way they live...

  8. Nikita Kade

    Like other viewers, I've also seen other documentaries on the Zoe tribe. Each time I see them, I find myself hoping to God that they are still keeping to their traditions, that they are happy, healthy, and left alone in their own environment. And yet I know that, each time I see them, they've come into contact once again with the wider world around them, in order to be filmed. And I wonder if my wish is a selfish one. We have medicines that could cure problems the tribe can't cure on its own. We have inventions that make the collection and preparation of food easier. Should we assume that these people prefer to be locked in a time warp, hundreds of years behind the world around them? Or should we think we're doing them a favor by introducing some of the advantages of modernity into their society?

    The Zoe appear to have such an equanimity about them, such an inate fairness and sensibility, that I think we'd be doing them no favors by interfering with their way of life. Yet all we see is what the filmmakers' cameras let us see; how do we know that we're getting a true picture of this seemingly wonderful Noble Savage people? If the Zoe truly are as they're presented, then the best thing we can do is stay far, far away from them. If, however, their lives are considerably more complicated, and increasingly subject to the problems of modernity, we are not helping them by turning them into a living museum exhibit. They will soon reach the crisis point reached by other isolated peoples all over the globe, when modernity begins to erode their traditions and draw in their young. Then what will we do? What will they want to do?

    We who live in the modern world always seem to be looking for what we regard as innocents, who are closer to nature than we are, somehow more in harmony with the natural world than we are. The entertainment industry helps out by seeming to find such people. But we rareIy know how the images on film are captured, whether they are spontaneous or staged, a reality or a rarity manipulated for the lens. I only hope that I really had a chance to view this tribe, even from a distance, while it still regarded itself as complete within its own world, neither needing nor wanting the "assistance" of the world beyond it.

  9. Imightberiding

    Thoroughly intriguing.

  10. Alison

    I think it's all to do with equality...That's why it works so well and the fact they don't want things all the time. They live to create the things they need. In the western world we are always wanting things we don't need and our whole existence is based on inequality. Which may explain why we have so many problems.. inequality. ? There is always someone at the top. We don't live side by side, equally like they do.

  11. Name

    this is on old documentary and I think I seen some of this people in other documentaries.I m sure by now , they are worshiping Jesus, money , power, fame, on top of becoming igocentric, selfish,irational hater, and eccology destroyers , welcome to civilitation.

  12. Joracat

    Great film. Makes me wish I had been born there instead of here.

  13. Shantanu Sanyal

    just great work - - speechless after looking it - - thanks a lot

  14. bringmeredwine

    What an interesting doc!
    What a beautiful society!
    It gladdens my heart to know there are people out there fighting to keep the Zo'e safe from the rest of us.
    This one leaves me with lots to ponder....

  15. Krista Mills

    Hey Guys

    This is excually why we westerns don't get along. Someone has to try and discredit someone else for there natural curiosity.

    The point of the Doc is to inform us of ways us primitive humans can improve ourself by living in harmony.

    Stop believing you are so superior. This world has to many guys like you.


    That was brilliant. Love to watch the next one. Don't know what to look for.

    1. bringmeredwine

      Maybe you could look up "Amazonia"?
      It looks like the name of the series that made this film.

  17. Krutarth

    They must have more questions about us then we do them.

    1. watcher

      and they equally might have none! Some people are just happy to get on with their lives without trying to judge, compare or analyse the lives of others..

  18. 1concept1

    Excellent doc! I would like to know their avg life span. Their crime rate, how they handle court issues do they have a death penalty and if so for what offenses? I don't see any jails? Do they banish their people from the tribe for certain offenses? Whats there cancer situation?

    1. Alexandru Matei

      I'm wondering why you are you curious about all these issues? Sounds bit weird to me but ... maybe you can explain it better.

      Great doc by the way, I always enjoy watching documentaries about tribes, it's like taking you into another dimension.

    2. Fredrik Vilhelm Suokas

      I suspect 1concept1 was being sarcastic :) We all know those people live healthier and more natural lives than we do in the west. But still, would be fun to know the answers.

    3. Jack1952

      Child mortality rates are extremely high and life spans are short. Some do live till old age but most succumb to disease, accidental death, the effects of hunger, and tribal conflicts. I wonder how many died due to infections because of those things that are inserted in their bottom lip. I think the idea they live healthier is more of a romantic myth than reality.

    4. oQ

      Why would you think that...are you referring to
      this specific tribe? If it was the case i would think the maker of the doc would have mentionned it, he did spend quite a bit of time with them and seem to have understood their language quite well.

    5. 1concept1

      you might be right oQ I would like to think so but chances are jack1952, is closer to their "reality", so to speak.

    6. anthony

      What ever it was a darn good documentary I really enjoyed it even mist my football for it!!!

    7. Jack1952

      I would think it a logical conclusion that this tribe has not achieved zero population growth on a voluntary level. They are a primitive culture and would breed as all humans do, each woman having more than two babies in a lifetime. If all the children survived into adulthood to have children, the Amazon jungle would be overrun with members of this tribe. It clearly isn't. They are just as susceptible to disease and the dangers of life that all people are. Why modern man has gone through the population growth it has is due to an unprecedented ability to understand nature to an extent that this tribe has yet to achieve. I'm not talking about the living within nature as some describe but the learning of how things work and manipulating natural processes to their own advantage to enhance survival rates. Agriculture, medical science, sophisticated tool making and all the other branches of human activity that has evolved over generations.

    8. hmmss

      still there's a scene where the woman aborts a baby

    9. 1concept1

      interesting, where do you get data from? I am not trying to be sarcastic. What you say stands to reason.

    10. Alexandru Matei

      They sure do live more stress-free lifes compared to us in the west, more healthy, they don't have to worry much about anything except providing food and shelter for the family. The crime rate I suppose is zero and to me death penalty is the most disgusting thing since mankind - I mean killing someone that killed someone else is a double crime. Live the god damn prisoner alone and let him make his life -time sentence - just don't kill him... everyone has the right to live even if it's in a prison (just my two cents).

    11. 1concept1

      Thats more then two cents Alex. I am with you on the "death penalty" The "church goers" go to church on Sunday and Electrocute them on Monday. I just don't understand these people They take ll or l2 people on a jury and put someone to death. The judge says, "now go back to your room think about this and come back tomorrow and tell me if you have decided to kill this person. Sounds premeditated to me like the highest order of premeditation! A lot of sick people in this world?

    12. Alexandru Matei


      If we think logically the person that kills the imprisoned (by death penalty) commits a crime as well.

      Why isn't he killed as well?

      This is why the death penalty to me is the most disgusting thing ever invented. If the criminal is that dangerous in society you can keep him in a cell, give him something to do - but just don't kill him because then you become a criminal yourself.

    13. 1concept1

      Actually i wasn't trying to be sarcastic not at all. We might think they are healthier because of their natural life styles? Wouldn't it be sort of interesting to see a doc on this same group about their problems, if any? and data on their life span etc. and how they process the down side of everyday life. I have never thought about that before on this type of doc. but i did this time.

      PS: I can be sarcastic, but not about these sweet little rain forest bumbkins.

      As a side note writing on this computer is so direct and the reader takes things in black and white only. Like when they teach acting there are many ways to say, "I love you" but not on here its simply i love you and the reader has to add the feeling part which may be different then the writer. Like when you said "I suspect 1concep1 was being sarcastic" at least you asked me was i being sarcastic but some people whould just assume that i was being sarcastic and leave it at that. Sometimes i write too fast and leave out important essence?

    14. Fredrik Vilhelm Suokas

      Thanks for the answer. I would absolutely want to see a doc like that. And good explanation in the side note. Correction to my earlier comment: i meant to say ironic, not sarcastic, my mistake. When i said healthier i mostly meant emotionally, spiritually an psychologically healthier, and i suspect their basic physiological is better than ours, due to cleaner food, physical training etc. As you said about the downside of their lives, I think it is ignorant to think(as I often do) that their lives are easy and and sooo overwhelmingly blissful. For example if they break a leg, they don't have morphine, surgeons and hospitals.

    15. bringmeredwine

      You made my morning.
      I cannot believe you actually wrote "these sweet little rain forest bumpkins"!
      But I AM smiling, and shall begin to watch this doc!

    16. 1concept1

      Actually i am just curious these people seem like their in the garden paradise, in away. This is the best doc I've seen of this type. I mean they must have problems an unruly child somewhere don't you think. Like you say Alex it is like another dimension. I guess what it comes down too, i am curious how their lives are effected by their life style and are they subjected to the same mental issues they we have, stress and all that? I do realize that its a doc and i suppose everyone is on there best behavior. Normally i watch this kind of doc and just move on but this time was different, does that help?

    17. qpid

      1concept1 Like did you watch the doc? And not the naked bodies?? What crime would they have?? They are allowed multiple spouses! They have sex at a young age! They learn from young to work together to survive! They have nothing more than the other person! They share!