Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Decade of Destruction: Killing for Land

  • Series: The Decade of Destruction
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $175.00 Series (public): $495.00
  • Date: Copyright 1990. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Brazil - Economic conditions. Rain forests - Brazil. Land settlement - Brazil.
  • Production Information: Live action, Film transfer. Produced by Adrian Cowell. Color. 50 min.
  • Available from: Bullfrog Films Oley, PA 19547 (800) 543-FROG
  • ISBN: ISBN 1-56029-030-7.
  • Cataloging: 981.063 Brazil - Social conditions
  • Print Entry #: 2:1334
  • Reviewer: Bruce Guter

    Killing for Land is one of five episodes in the Decade of Destruction series, which chronicles the devastation of the Amazon rain forest during 1980-1990. The series has been produced by the television documentarian Adrian Cowell, whose earlier offering, Banking on Disaster (see review in the Winter 1990 issue, entry 1:37), detailed the effects of the Brazilian government's decision to build a road through the Amazon forest to foster economic development (Cowell has also recently published a book on the struggle to save the Amazon rain forest).

    This particular program focuses not so much on the ecological disaster in the Amazon basin, which has attracted so much world attention, but rather on the often violent conflict between Brazil's landless poor, who number in the millions, and the wealthy landowners who have displaced them. The central theme of Killing for Land is that the rural poor are being pushed further and further into the rain forest in search of land to cultivate - because Brazil's economic policy promotes and subsidizes cattle farming and other kinds of agribusiness at their expense. Those who attempt to eke out an existence on these often abandoned or unused ranch and farm lands are subjected to an endless cycle of violence and harassment by gunmen in the hire of absentee landowners, who reap the benefits of government subsidies. The program asserts that the Brazilian government has been unwilling or unable to protect the squatters and their supporters from this violence. In turn, the desperate squatters flee further into the forest, and contribute to its devastation.

    Killing for Land illustrates how the human and ecological tragedy of the Amazon has become a factor in the Brazilian state of Rondonia. There, cameras follow the efforts of squatters to remain on a largely deserted 12,000-acre cattle ranch, while fending off the hired gunmen. Interviews with the settlers reveal both their determination and their desperation, as their leaders and those who wish to help them are harassed or murdered, perhaps with the connivance of the local authorities. In addition to this closeup tracking of events, Killing for Land covers the 1989 Brazilian presidential election, in which land reform was a central issue, and in which the pro-reform candidate was defeated by a narrow five percent margin.

    This is a very well-made documentary with a strong point of view about the social and political conflicts in Brazil that have helped to fuel the fires that are now consuming the Amazon rain forest. It argues implicitly that the problem of how to save the rain forest is an economic and political as well as an ecological one, and that until solutions are reached, the forests will continue to burn.

    Decade of Destruction:
    In the Ashes of the Forest, Part 1
    In the Ashes of the Forest, Part 2

  • Series: The Decade of Destruction
  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $175.00 Series (public): $495.00
  • Date: Copyright 1990. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Land reform - Brazil. Brazil. Rain forests - Brazil.
  • Production Information: Live action, Film transfer. Produced by
  • Adrian Cowell. Color. English, Spanish.
  • Subtitled. 55, 57 min.
  • Available from: Bullfrog Films Oley, PA 19547 (800) 543-FROG
  • ISBN: ISBN 1-56029-028-5. 1-56029-025-0.
  • Cataloging: ||Brazil - Social conditions||Deforestation
  • Print Entry #: 2:1333
  • Reviewer: Christopher G. Lewis

    In the Ashes of the Forest is a two-video segment of Adrian Cowell's series Decade of Destruction. This program details the homesteading program the Brazilian government instituted to relieve the rampant poverty in the slums of Brazil's cities. Widespread destruction of the rain forest is documented as well as the story of how the project pitted the "civilized" homesteaders against the native Indians in a struggle to dominate the land.

    In the early 1980s the Brazilian government established a frontier town deep in the forest, called Rondonia. A dirt road was cut through the jungle to provide access. Then the land surrounding Rondonia was divided into thousands of 100-acre parcels to be given to landless peasants to be farmed. This documentary provides a ten-year longitudinal study of this project and its results. Irreparable damage to the rain forest, decimation of the indigenous Indian population, and widespread farming and ranching failures are a few of the topics discussed. Cowell explains the underlying problems of the region by presenting case studies of individual homesteaders and of the local Indian tribe as they encounter repeated problems in the jungle.

    Despite the bad publicity and overwhelming failure of the homesteading project, the World Bank stepped in to loan money to pave the road to Rondonia, which resulted in the problems spreading more rapidly. At the close of this program, the viewer is told that a new political climate appears to be emerging in Brazil. The newly elected president is heeding the warnings of the environmentalists and establishing an area protected from development.

    The production values are consistently high, with often-spectacular footage illustrating most aspects of the narration. The production style is lucid, with an easy-to-follow structure that gracefully interlaces dozens of elements into a striking portrayal of a desperate community. Packed with information, this documentary sheds new light on the issue of the destruction of the rain forest.

    Highly recommended, this is an outstanding choice either as a first selection or as an additional selection in this subject area.

    Decade of Destruction: Mountains of Gold

  • Series: The Decade of Destruction
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $175.00 Series (public): $495.00
  • Date: Copyright 1990. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Goldmines and mining. Brazil. Environment.
  • Production Information: Live action, Film transfer. Produced by Adrian Cowell. Color. 55 min.
  • Available from: Bullfrog Films Oley, PA 19547 (800) 543-FROG
  • ISBN: ISBN 1-56029-032-3.
  • Cataloging: 363.739 Environmental protection - Brazil|| Gold mines and mining - Brazil
  • Print Entry #: 2:1732
  • Reviewer: Joyce Drzal

    Mountains of Gold, part of the series The Decade of Destruction, provides viewers with a hard look at ecology in a documentary that goes far beyond a discussion of recycling soda cans and plastic grocery bags. As did an earlier episode, The Killing of Chico Mendes, this program deals with the destruction of the Amazon rain forest in South America. Such profound greed and devastation are depicted that if it weren't for the actual footage being shown, it would be hard for viewers to envision the impact and implications of the mining of the area.

    The presentation traces the development and later cessation of the Brazilian government's mining projects in the Carajas Mountains - not only for gold but also for bauxite, chrome, zinc, copper, and iron ore. The government, seeking ways to pay off its enormous national debt, believed it had found a solution in the vast mineral and ore deposits of Amazonia. But what looked like an ideal solution in 1980 escalated into an enormous environmental problem by 1990.

    The statistics quoted are staggering (for example, 1,800 tons of poisonous mercury were dumped into the Amazon in the 1980s), and the documentary also reveals the negative consequences to the environment that "progress" has wrought. Eventually the whole mining operation was abandoned as a result of worldwide concern and creditor ultimatums, which ordered the government to clean up the Carajas in order to get any more loans.

    Technically, this production is very well done. The visuals and narration work together to provide a wealth of information. The camerawork is particularly pleasing, offering a wide variety of panoramic shots of the destruction of the land and closeups of local illegal miners.

    Recommended for public and school libraries, the video addresses issues that are topical and of concern to everyone who inhabits the planet Earth.

    Decade of Destruction: The Killing of Chico Mendes

  • Series: The Decade of Destruction
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $175.00 Series (public): $495.00
  • Date: Copyright 1990. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Mendes, Chico. Ecology. Amazonia. Rain forests - Brazil. Deforestation.
  • Production Information: Live action, Film transfer. Produced by Adrian Cowell. Color. 55 min.
  • Available from: Bullfrog Films Oley, PA 19547 (800) 543-FROG
  • ISBN: ISBN 1-56029-034-X.
  • Cataloging: 981 Environmental policy - Brazil
  • Print Entry #: 2:1335
  • Reviewer: Brian Taylor

    This program is the fifth part of Adrian Cowell's series, The Decade of Destruction, which chronicles the devastation of the Amazonian rain forest from 1980 to the present. Closing out the series, this coverage of the death of Chico Mendes and the subsequent establishment of over five million acres of "extractive reserve" of rain forest provides a hopeful ending to a tragic story. Bringing worldwide attention to the plight of the rain forest from an ecological standpoint and from that of the rubber-tappers who make their living harvesting latex from the rubber trees, the death of Mendes serves as a fitting historical benchmark for a change in Brazil's and the whole world's view of the importance of Amazonia.

    Fortunately, this program stands very well on its own. Viewers will not feel they are missing anything that may have come up in the preceding segments of the series. Encompassing Mendes' life, activities to save the rainforest, and death, the video telescopes many of the issues facing Amazonia: the global implications of deforestation, displacement of the region's indigenous peoples, greedy ranchers murdering Indians or anyone standing in the way of expanded profits for themselves, a government itching to boost the nation into the ranks of the developed nations of the world, and finally, Brazil's initial steps being taken to preserve Earth's biggest "oxygen plant" - Amazonia.

    By itself, The Killing of Chico Mendes serves as a competent overview of the social and political issues surrounding the saving of the rain forest. As it does not cover the variety of unique plant and animal life that was being lost to deforestation, an excellent supplement to this video is one that many public libraries already have acquired through the MacArthur Video Library, Amazonia: A Celebration of Life (Leapin' Lemur Productions, 1984). These two videos together cover the ecological, social, and political issues of this eminently important topic. As The Killing of Chico Mendes is very competently produced and edited, well-written and professionally photographed, it is recommended for libraries having the MacArthur Video Library title and even for those that do not. It is well worth the price for public and all high school and college library video collections.

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