Sarayaku Indigenous People and Amnesty International Win Film Award

Sarayaku filmmaker Eriberto Gualinga received the award on behalf of his community. Photo Credit: Zoë Tryon

A groundbreaking documentary about an Ecuadorian Indigenous People's successful international legal battle against their country for allowing foreign oil exploration on their land without their consent has won an award at National Geographic's prestigious All Roads Film Project.

Amnesty International and the Kichwa de Sarayaku Indigenous community filmed and co-produced Children of the Jaguar, about the community's journey from their lands in eastern Ecuador's Amazonian rainforest to seek justice at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Costa Rica.

The film won "Best Documentary" at the 2012 National Geographic All Roads Film Festival held last weekend in Washington, DC.

"We weren't expecting this award – it came as a surprise. Being chosen from among hundreds of films is a great honour," said Sarayaku filmmaker Eriberto Gualinga, who received the award on behalf of his community in Washington DC.

"Many people have sent their congratulations over the internet and I'll pass these on personally to the Sarayaku community when I return. We'll continue applying to film festivals as a way to have our story reach a wider audience."

In a ruling made public in July of this year, the IACHR came down in favour of the Sarayaku, ending the community's decade-long legal battle after a foreign oil company was allowed to encroach on their traditional lands in the early 2000s without consultation with the Sarayaku.

The Costa Rica-based Court found that the Ecuadorian state violated the community's right to be consulted, as well as their community property rights and their cultural identity. It also found Ecuador responsible for putting the life and physical integrity of the Sarayaku at grave risk, after the oil company placed more than 1,400 kg of high-grade explosives on the Indigenous People's territory.

The Sarayaku are still waiting to hear from the state about its plans to comply with the ruling.

The National Geographic award represents a further validation of the Sarayaku's success and will ensure their story reaches a wider audience around the world.

"These awards, chosen by a distinguished jury, recognize those films that have made the most impact this year, but as in years past, the films that will be screened represent some of the most impressive indigenous filmmakers in the world," said All Roads Film Festival Director Francene Blythe.

Children of the Jaguar will be making the rounds at a number of international film festivals before being released more widely in 2013.

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