Mari Luz Canaquiri says her river is the “ɨa” – the center, life force and mother. Her river deep in Peru’s Amazon provides fish to eat, a transport route and a place to swim and relax. But it is also much more. Underneath the surface live the Karuara, which means “people of the river” in her native tongue.

The Karuara live in a parallel universe underwater and visit their human cousins in dreams. They lounge in hammocks made of boa constrictors, smoke sardines and wear crayfish watches, stingray hats and catfish shoes. Behind their playfulness, the Karuara are powerful spirits with healing powers and great knowledge.

But the Karuara and the old ways are in danger of being forgotten. Mari Luz says her people face cultural genocide. While foreign companies earn millions from the Amazon’s resources, indigenous communities lack basic development like schools, health care and clean water. She formed the Kukama Women’s Federation to fight back. We follow her valiant struggle to protect her people, river and the vibrant spirit world below.

Karuara, People of the River will remind viewers that each river, lake and stream is sacred and that our planet’s fragile water resources must be protected.

Behind the scenes