Highly acclaimed director James Cameron (Avatar) teamed up with Amazon Watch to produce a short feature “A Message from Pandora” to spotlight the battle to stop construction of the massive Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon, which thousands of local Indigenous people have vowed to resist, citing its potential devastating impact on their communities and the rainforest environment. The indigenous tribes who inhabit the region say the Xingu River is sacred and that the Brazilian government is violating their rights. Together with the riverbank settler populations, they are determined to defend their sacred river and their way of life and are asking the world to join them in stopping the dam.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu and President of the Indigenous Missionary Council of the Catholic Church in Brazil, recently was one of four recipients of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Bishop Kräutler has been an unwavering ally of indigenous peoples and social movements opposed to Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River for over two decades.

James Cameron became inspired by the story after he and cast members of Avatar accompanied Amazon Watch and the Brazilian environmental organization Instituto Socioambiental to the Xingu River in March and April 2010. The delegation visited Indigenous and riverbank communities that would be adversely affected by the Belo Monte Dam Complex. The $17 billion project would divert the flow of the Xingu River; its reservoirs would flood 668 square kilometers, displace more than 20,000 people and generate methane — a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Seeing the parallels between Avatar and the battles taking place viscerally in the tributaries of the Amazon, Cameron made a commitment to support the campaign led by local populations along the Xingu River to protect their sacred rainforest homeland and their way of life.

“Here were people whose lives were going to be altered irrevocably, whose communities were going to be destroyed, literally put under water, or affected negatively as the river’s flow would change,” he said. “For these people, it’s the end of their world, as they know it. And they’re reacting accordingly. They are there with their spears and their bows and arrows, saying that they will fight…. We made a commitment to do what we could to help, to raise consciousness about this issue.”

Watch “A Message from Pandora” at www.messagefrompandora.org.

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