Rights of Nature: El Alma del Pueblo

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


Ecuador’s indigenous communities unite, in the face of persecution, to defend the revolutionary Rights of Nature inscribed in the constitution they helped to create.


The 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution was written to recognize indigenous political and philosophical ideas, becoming the first in world history to ratify the Rights of Nature. Seven years later Indigenous groups fight against the national government to protect nature as a subject of law and uphold the constitution they helped to write.


The Rights of Nature in Ecuador have been praised by some for representing a ground-breaking turn to the bio-centric, propelling “Nature” from mere property an owner can destroy at will, to an entity whose reproductive capacity is defensible in a court of law. The indigenous people of Ecuador tell a different story. By demonstrating the fundamental failure of the Rights of Nature for indigenous communities in Ecuador, in juxtaposition with the successful implementation of the legislation by an eccentric American expat - the film highlights asymmetries of power and the opportunistic adoption of indigenous rhetoric without indigenous values - evacuating beautiful and complex indigenous concepts of their most potent social and political meaning. Our film grapples with the social, philosophical, and political implications of the concept of the Rights of Nature - as well its expropriation from the indigenous movement. The aesthetic of the film focuses on capturing the emotional life of resistance in order to teach others around the world how these experiences might be dealt with. How do we resist normalization without wearing down from constant shock? Is there a the sensibility between inexorable shock and passive acceptance? To do this, shots feature hand-held footage of the immediacy and intensity of personal interactions, the variation of state-public conflict, and its expression in interpersonal encounters. We resist omniscient/ heroic techniques of narrativizing. For example, we refuse the voice of the omniscient narrator or the bird’s eye view of the rainforest. Instead, we rigorously compose still compositions that challenge the viewer’s preexisting ideas, and deploy techniques to render a contemporary indigenous subject. These more reflective images put bodies and communities in relationship with the landscape, where the viewer must learn from being immersed in the scene rather than looking from above. Structured by interviews explaining the historical, conceptual, and philosophical developments of the Rights of Nature in the Ecuadorian Constitution, our film offers a contemporary glimpse into the lives of indigenous Ecuadorians. Resisting an essentialized image of indigeneity, we seek to represent a multiplicity of indigenous identities, and demonstrate the grace and power, but also the anger, frustration, despair, and violence of the indigenous movement in Ecuador - one of the most politically influential indigenous movements in the world. The scenes of indigenous peoples throughout the country, in various situations, channel the range of emotions felt during a period of political upheaval. The various aesthetic approaches of the film create a series of moods, all of which are a part of what it means to be a political being that can sustain oneself within a long period of upheaval. They contribute to a holistic image of what constitutes a political life.


Virginia Black - Producer, Co-Writer
Virginia is an architect, indigenous rights advocate and visual ethnographer.  Her research and documentation of the Amazon as a space constructed and designed by women has been funded by the US Department of Education, Columbia University and University of Michigan and has been exhibited in New York City and Quito.  It was published by Columbia Books and FLACSO.  Virginia studied Quechua and Kichwa at NYU and at the Andes and Amazon Field School in Tena, Ecuador.  Rights of Nature: El Alma del Pueblo is her first feature film.

Casey Carter - Director, Editor, Co-Writer
Casey Carter is a photographer and environmental researcher working for Maya Lin Studios in New York City.  His projects have been based, funded, and exhibited in three continents, located in Beijing, Detroit, rural Tennessee, and Quito. As a Fellow of the Instituto de la Ciudad in Quito, Casey developed "Espherias de Aparencia," a set of photographs examining the language of bodies in protest within and about the metropolis- on the street, in the square, in the church or the cemetery, and within the newly constructed commercial malls.  He holds degrees in Physics, Photography, Architecture, and Research in Design Health.


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