World Premiere of Karuara, People of the River

Published June 16th on the New Internationalist on-line magazine:

World Premiere of Karuara, People of the River


“Karuara, People of the River” had its World Premiere this April at the prestigious Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto. The internationally-acclaimed festival showcased over 160 documentaries from April 25 to May 5, 2024.

Directed by Miguel Araoz Cartagena and Stephanie Boyd, the film follows the struggles of a brave Indigenous woman and her community as they confront powerful interests to save their river and the sacred Karuara, or “people of the river”.

Mariluz Canaquiri Murayari, who leads a federation of Kukama women in a groundbreaking lawsuit to safeguard the Marañón River, is the film’s protagonist and also a co-producer. The film’s other producers are Leonardo Tello Imaina of Radio Ucamara, an Indigenous media outlet in the Amazon region and Stephanie Boyd of Quisca.

“Every phase of production brought indigenous artists, elders and journalists together with experienced filmmakers,” says co-director Stephanie Boyd. “This is revolutionary in Latin America where most films are still made about indigenous communities, and not with and by them.”

“We’re disseminating our ancestral culture through this documentary,” says Mariluz Canaquiri. “The film allows us to send a message to people who don’t know our cosmovision, to allow them to see our reality, our culture and, in a way, us too, the Kukama people.”

The filmmakers used stunning hand painted animations to depict the Karuara’s spirit world and take viewers on an incredible journey underwater. These spiritual beings live in a parallel universe beneath the Amazon region’s waterways and help maintain the region’s delicate ecological balance 

But oil spills, illegal gold mining and other so-called modern developments threaten the Amazon’s rivers and spirit world below. The Amazon Basin holds 20 percent of the world’s freshwater and is considered the world’s lung due to its integral role in carbon sequestration. Destruction of the Amazon will have dire consequences for all humanity.

This March a Peruvian judge issued a positive verdict recognizing the inherent rights of the Marañón River, including its right to exist, flow freely and be free from contamination. The Peruvian government  appealed and the case had a second hearing in early May. The judges have not yet emitted their sentence.

In a world that puts a price tag on nature, “Karuara, People of the River” takes viewers inside the magic and beauty of the Amazon region and reminds us of our sacred connection to water.


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