The Battle for the Xingu

Cultures of Resistance is excited to present our short film "Battle for the Xingu" online. The film is about indigenous Kayapó opposition to the Brazilian government’s proposed Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon. The dam would have a disastrous impact on the Kayapó homeland. The film features footage from the 2008 Altamira summit, a key moment of the burgeoning Kayapó movement, when 1,000 Indians joined national and international supporters in the city of Altamira, Para to protest the Belo Monte Dam project plans. It was the largest indigenous gathering in the Brazilian Amazon in nearly twenty years.

If you are interested in hosting your own screening of "Battle for the Xingu," please get in touch here or email us at

Upcoming Screenings

  • Native American Film and Video Festival New York, New York, April 1, 2011, 1-6pm

  • Click Here For Past Screenings

    Belo Monte's Many Flaws

    Many specialists from across Brazil and abroad—including economists, engineers, and environmental scientists—have made it clear that Belo Monte is an ill-conceived dam. While the government estimates the project’s total price tag at US$8.7 billion, independent assessments have put the number around $17 billion, while numerous private corporations have lost interest in investing. Indeed, state-owned, taxpayer-financed companies account for approximately 75% of the recently signed concession.

    The dam’s technical viability has also been called into question. Coronado Antunes, ex-President of the state-owned water and sanitation utility Sabesp, was quoted in the July issue of the Journal of the Brazilian Engineering Institute, calling the dam "the worst engineering project in the history of hydroelectric dams in Brazil, and perhaps of any engineering project in the world." According to independent evaluations, during the seasons and years when the river’s flow is below its peak, the dam will generate far less than what government and industry proponents have touted to the public. Quoting Antunes again, "in years of low instream flow, Belo Monte will be disastrous."

    Besides the economic and technical issues, and the thousands who would be forced from their homes due to flooding, less-obvious impacts abound. Fresh water would be significantly less available; fish species would be decimated; water-borne diseases like Malaria would skyrocket.

    According to a World Wildlife Fund study, through investments in energy efficiency Brazil could cut its projected demand by 40% by the year 2020—the equivalent to 14 dams the size of Belo Monte. On the other hand, approximately 30% of the dam’s generated power will go to heavy industry like mining companies, which themselves are some of the world’s worst polluters.

    The Campaign to Stop the Dam

    The Kayapó get settled at the encampment in Altamira From the initial indigenous declaration of resistance issued in Raoni up to the present, Cultures of Resistance has supported Xingu activists and advocacy groups that collaborate with them, including International Rivers and the Instituto Raoni.

    Instituto Raoni was founded in 2001 and continues to be operated by indigenous inhabitants of the Mekranoti Reservations of Central Brazil. The organization’s main objective is to balance economic development with the preservation of cultural traditions and the maintenance of the region’s natural habitat. In addition to its village-based sustainable development initiatives, which have spurred local production of brazil-nut oil, copaiba oil, and aromatic resin, Instituto Raoni has also successfully reduced the encroachment of illegal loggers into the territory, trained indigenous representatives in legal procedures for interacting with outside individuals and groups, and encouraged indigenous people to resist exploitation and the unfair business practices of the government and private companies.

    International Rivers has also provided a significant amount of international support to the Kayapó in their struggle. Founded in 1985, the group has worked to encourage more efficient ways of meeting the world’s water and energy needs. The International Rivers network includes environmentalists, human rights activists, ecological and industry experts, as well as individuals who are directly affected by the building of large dams. In their review of the Belo Monte Dam project, International Rivers experts reported that “although it would have an official installed capacity of 11,233 MW, the dam would be highly inefficient, generating as little as 1000 MW during the 3-4 month low water season." They concluded that the irreversible, harmful impact of the dam would greatly outweigh the economic value of the energy it would produce.

    How You Can Get Involved

    In August 2010, the Brazilian government signed a concession with the consortium that hopes to built the massive damn. Indigenous leaders continue to demand that the Brazilian government terminate the dam project, and International Rivers reports that the Kayapó have interpreted the continuation of construction plans as a threat of war. To join the fight to preserve the Xingu River, International Rivers recommends:

    Hosting your own screening and discussion of "The Battle for the Xingu." Cultures of Resistance can help you arrange a screening of the film.

    Writing to President Rousseff and other Brazilian government officials to say that the international community will not tolerate the destruction of the Amazon region’s ecological and cultural diversity.

    Donating directly to International Rivers’ Xingu River campaign.

    Becoming aware of your individual water and energy usage and making water and energy conservation part of your daily life.

    Joining the International Rivers mailing lists to receive updated information regarding developing issues, current campaigns, and future events.

    Volunteering with International Rivers. The group needs volunteers in all areas of administration, and well as research, education, and advocacy. Volunteer opportunities are available to individuals of all ages and in many different regions of the world.

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