still from Helena of Sarayaku

'Helena of Sarayaku' | Spring 2022

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Director ​​Eriberto Gualinga in conversation with Amalia Córdova, Mother Tongue Film Festival, Smithsonian. Introduced by Ron Gregg, MA in Film and Media Studies.


About Helena of Sarayaku

“Helena is a 17-year-old student in Finland. Her father is Swedish, and her mother is originally from the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, who live in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. On a recent trip there, Helena participates in the traditional Uyantza Raymi cultural festival, and meets with Kichwa leaders who ask her to deliver a message to the world — Kawsak Sacha, or ‘Living Forest,’ an innovative concept in conservation, in which the jungle is considered to be a living being. After COVID-19 confines Helena in Puyo — the closest city to Sarayaku — she learns that 80% of her community has been infected with the virus, and that the Bobonaza River has flooded part of her village. She is Helena of Sarayaku, and this is her story.”


2021 / Ecuador / Kichwa, English, and Spanish, with English subtitles / 70 minutes.


For additional context, watch Tiam/The Return, a 17-minute film by Eriberto Gualinga: “While millions of people around the world go into lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis, a family in the Ecuadorian Amazon has opted to move deeper into the relative safety of the jungle. As they reconnect with dormant ancestral knowledge, their affinity with nature begins to flourish.”


Co-presented by the Center for the Study of Social Difference; Columbia University School of the ArtsInstitute of Latin American Studies; MA in Film and Media Studies; Mother Tongue Film Festival, Smithsonian; and the Working Group on Environmental Justice, Belief Systems, and Aesthetic Experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean


still from Helena of Sarayaku

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