By Paola Totaro
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Oscar-winning British actor Mark Rylance has left behind the splendor of “Wolf Hall” and poetry of Shakespeare to appear in a film appealing for global support for the protection of indigenous communities and their land worldwide.
“Tribal peoples need to be respected as contemporary societies and their human rights protected,” says Rylance in the film, which was launched by Survival International on Wednesday, urging people to join the campaign to protect tribal peoples.
“Together we can prevent the annihilation of tribal peoples,” says Rylance, who has been an ambassador for the London-based human rights group since 2010.
The star of the BBC series “Wolf Hall” and Steven Spielberg’s latest film, “The BFG”, Rylance last year narrated the film, “Last of the Kawahiva”, which highlighted the plight of the Kawahiva tribe, a tiny group of Indians who still live without external contact in the Brazilian Amazon.
That film was part of a campaign led by Rylance which resulted in 14,000 emails sent to Brazil’s government, which responded with a pledge to map and protect the tribe’s land.
On April 19, Justice Minister Eugenio Aragao signed the decree creating the protected territory in a move seen as a significant gain for indigenous Amazon tribes.
However, with President Dilma Rousseff facing impeachment and Brazil gripped by recession, Survival International now fears that powerful business interests could access the tribe’s land and resources unless the decree is implemented soon.
The debate about how best to protect uncontacted tribes has polarised experts. Last week, the Brazilian government criticized a suggestion by two U.S. anthropologists in Science magazine that forcing contact with South America’s isolated tribes was the only way to ensure their survival.
In a letter signed by 18 experts, Brazil’s Department of Indigenous Affairs (FUNAI) rejected comments by Robert Walker and Kim Hill that staying hidden was “not viable in the long term” for the estimated 50 to 100 uncontacted tribes in Brazil.
Survival International campaigners say all uncontacted tribal people face catastrophe unless their land is protected.
“Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Jo Griffin; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)