Dream People of the Amazon


The Achuar people live in a part of the Amazon rain forest as pristine today as it was a thousand years ago. Their dreams are keeping it that way. The Achuar had no contact with the outside world until the early 1970’s. We learn how their dreams have protected their forest and their society

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Dream People of the Amazon tells the story of the Achuar, indigenous people who live in a remote and pristine part of the Amazon rain forest in southeastern Ecuador. The Achuar had no contact with the outside world until the early 1970’s.

Today, while still retaining their traditional culture, they are becoming increasingly sophisticated about the world beyond their forest. They know that the outside world is desperate for the oil that lies under their territory. They also know that oil operations have brought environmental and cultural devastation to their indigenous neighbors in northeastern Ecuador, only a few hundred miles away.

Faced with this threat to their very existence, the Achuar followed an ancient tradition. They looked to their dreams for guidance. Many elders had been having similar dreams, and their interpretation of those dreams was stunning: if they were to defend themselves from the destruction of oil operations, they should seek alliances in the very world that was about to destroy them.

Dream People of the Amazon is the first film the Achuar people have allowed to be made in their territory. Overcoming their shyness of cameras, they share with us their knowledge, customs, and spiritual beliefs. We learn how their dreams have protected their forest and their society—and could even help guide all of us to a sustainable future on our planet.

Spanish language (not subtitled) version available too. Please specify you would like this version at checkout in the comments section.

Written, Produced, and Directed by Lawrence M. Lansburgh
Run Time: 32 minutes
©2005 Lawrence M. Lansburgh

Languages: English, Spanish

SYRCL Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival (Nevada City, California)
Tel Aviv Film Festival (Tel Aviv, Israel)
World Community Film Festival (Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada)

Additional information

Weight 0.32 lbs
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 0.5 in
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    “You have got to see this. It packs more wonder and inspiration in its 32 minutes than most feature-length films.”
    Mike and Barbara Getz
    Theater Owners (Grass Valley, CA)

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    “The film “Dream People of the Amazon” confronts any images of a backward people caught in the cross hairs of the modern world. Representative Achuar natives from southeastern Ecuador travel around their country in a small plane and connect remote villages with radio. They protest in big city marches. An Achuar native speaks eloquently at a climate-control conference in the Netherlands. He speaks with a painted face, but he speaks about CO2, biodiversity, local stewardship and global impact.

    “The story is big oil. The story is another multinational invasion and deal-making with a poor, debt-strapped country. The soul of the story, as housed in this documentary, is a transcendent strategy for survival.

    “Seeing the decimation and pollution when oil operations descended on the Amazon region north of them, the Achuar listened to the wisdom of ceremony-induced dreams. Form alliances with other warrior tribes, the dreams told them, to save the Achuar way of life. Their allies at this time in their history are environmental groups in Ecuador and around the world. Partner with the modern ways, the dreams told them, if there is to be any Achuar homeland and heritage to sustain.

    “This colorfully photographed and educational film compels you with a worrisome yet hopeful corner of worldwide struggle. It invites you into the tradition and adaptive reality of the Achuar people.

    “Filmmaker Larry Lansburgh lives in Nevada City. He’ll complement the screening at the Nevada Theatre with a question-and-answer session. The film shows at the Nevada Theatre Sunday at 7:30 p.m. There will be special showings Monday through Thursday at Sierra Cinemas, Grass Valley.

    “In six trips to Achuar territory, Larry found them “without exception, to be extremely bright people.”

    “He hopes that his film “can challenge our ideas of inflexible indigenous people stuck in the stone age.” Larry probably hopes, as well, that his film can challenge us all not to be stuck in the oil age.”

    Grass Valley Union (October 13, 2005)
    Review by Chuck Jaffee

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    “I was truly inspired by several aspects of Larry’s film: the story of the Achuar’s rise to victory; the steps they took to do so; how the actions of a few can have global consequences; finally, the harmonious way of life of the Achuar.

    “I think an important lesson from this film was the three steps the Achuar took to defend their way of life. Forming alliances is ultimately the only way a problem is solved, in my opinion. The fact that the Achuar reached out to their ancient blood enemies to become strong allies nearly brings tears to my eyes.

    “I admire the Achuar people after seeing this film. Seeing human life be part of a cyclical pattern with nature was astounding. They work harder than the average American, and probably have more concrete knowledge pertinent to their existence. There is so much more unity and harmony within their society.”
    Austen Thibault,
    Student, Columbia College (Sonora, CA)

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    “Dream People of the Amazon is an eye-opening, extravagant film. The documentary itself is so beautiful and amazing with so many breathtaking shots. It made me want to take a trip out there so I could see the scenery in person. The interviews with the native people were so interesting to me, just to hear their language and to learn so much about them in a film that is only 30 minutes long. They know so much and are dependent on the forest and their own knowledge to stay alive. Rather than a pharmacy, they have the earth and nature to heal them.

    “All in all, I genuinely enjoyed watching this documentary; I feel I learned so much. After watching the film and meeting the man who put the whole thing together, it was encouraging to see the effect one person can make on spreading his knowledge of the Amazon.”

    Sarah Delgado,
    Student, Columbia College (Sonora, CA)

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    “I’m grateful to Larry Lansburgh for bringing to my community the message that a small tribe in the Amazon has the wisdom and strength to keep an oil company from destroying their land and culture. Along the way, we learn from the Achuar some things that are entirely foreign to us Americans: that dreams visit the entire community and are there to guide us; that we are strengthened when the divine in nature embodies us; that our communion with nature is vital to our survival.

    “In addition to capturing the fascinating Achuar tribe, Larry captures the beauty, majesty, and complexity of the Amazon itself. Few people ever visit such a remote spot on the planet, much less film it with such an artistic and intimate eye: the flowers, the creatures, the Achuar on a hunt with their blow darts.

    “Dream People of the Amazon is a crucial film to those who want to expand their humanity and who care about this collision of modernity with the indigenous world.”
    Jim Toner
    Professor of English, Columbia College (Sonora, CA)

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