The river exists for the Kukama in two realms-the human world, which people depend on for their daily needs, and the parallel spiritual world of women who transform into giant boa constrictors and the Karuara river people. The spirit world will be depicted in five animations that flow through the film like the river.

Whirlpools are the gateway to the magical world beneath the river so we open and close the film with a swirling animated whirlpool of fish, drawn by Kukama children. The second animation tells the story of how the Amazon’s rivers were created; the third is about the creation of the Kukama people and the fourth is a recent story about a young man who was seduced by a Karuara river spirit and left his life on land to live with her underwater.

Our animators are working with indigenous artists to create the animations in 2D. Each image was hand-painted, photographed and edited in Adobe Aftereffects. There are more than 2,000 paintings in every animated short and we carried out detailed movement studies beforehand to ensure verisimilitude.

For the animation about the origins of the Amazon’s rivers, our Kukama narrator made a traditional bow and arrow and we photographed him shooting it to get the movements right.

Each animated character has a human mirror image: Mari Luz is the Boa Woman, the mother of the Kukama people and her uncle, Don Jose, is the Kukama god, or First Fisherman. This underlines the dual nature of indigenous communities, where existence is both physical and spiritual.

The transitions between each animation and the filmed story are being carefully edited to highlight this connection. For example, the first Kukama child, born from the relationship between a Boa Woman and a hunter, leaves the water and transforms into a real-life Kukama child from Mari Luz’s village.

Throughout the film the animated sequences mirror or reflect what is happening in the human world. When the spirit world is threatened by a dark, black substance that chokes life underwater, Mari Luz’s village is dealing with the devastating impact of oil spills from leaky pipelines.

Behind the scenes animation