After 100 years of searching, a silent documentary about the Amazon has been found

A very interesting and unusual story about the film debut

by Sededin Dedovic
After 100 years of searching, a silent documentary about the Amazon has been found
© Mario Tama / Getty Images

The long-lost documentary "Amazon: The Longest River in the World," described as the "holy grail of Brazilian silent film," has been rediscovered nearly a century after it disappeared. The documentary was stolen from director Silvino Santos shortly after it was shot in 1918, and just over a decade later, it disappeared completely.

It was a very interesting case because since it was stolen, no trace of it has ever been found. Attempts by Brazilian and international film lovers to find this film have always ended unsuccessfully. However, it seemed destined to find this film, which today has an inestimable value.

The film reappeared earlier this year in a Czech archive, and was identified by experts from Italy and Brazil, the Guardian reports. "It's basically a miracle. We didn't have the slightest hope that this work would one day be found," said Savio Stoko, a Brazilian film expert, who confirmed the discovery.

Santos, who spent most of his life in the Amazon, was one of the main creators of Brazilian cinema of the early 20th century. He set the standards for future films and his works were studied at the university. His most famous work is "In the Land of the Amazons" which was made more than 100 years ago, in 1922 to be exact.

"Amazon: The Longest River in the World" from 1918 is considered a rare gem of Brazilian cinema due to its length, theme and compositional quality. We can freely say that it is not only a jewel of Brazilian but also of world cinema.

With fascinating footage of the diverse landscapes and inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest, including some of the earliest known moving images of indigenous people, Vitoto is a treasure of sorts and invaluable in the modern age.

Santos takes his audience on a detailed journey through the Amazon, alternating close-ups of caimans, jaguars and tropical flora with footage of indigenous rituals. It seems surreal after 100 years to watch footage of the Amazon rainforest.

By the end of this year, the film will be shown in several countries

The lost documentary has acquired mythic status in Brazil with the story of its disappearance recorded by Santos in an unpublished memoir written shortly before his death in 1969, according to the Guardian.

Filmed over three years in the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, the film disappeared before it could be shown in Brazil. The film gained mythic status and popularity precisely for this reason because it was stolen by Propersio de Melo Saraiva who also worked on this film.

A copy of the film survives in the Film Archive in Prague, where it was wrongly cataloged as an American production around 1925. It took almost 100 years for viewers to enjoy the unreal nature of the Amazon Rainforest again.

The curator of this archive sent a copy to Jay Weisberg, a specialist in silent cinema and director of Italy's Pordenone silent film festival, where the documentary will be screened this week. We hope that soon this film will be online on some platform so that we can all enjoy this truly cult achievement. After Italy, this film will be shown in the Czech Republic and Brazil.