‘POV’ Illuminates the Artistry and Guardianship of Indigenous Visual Artist Uýra in the Captivating, Lyrical Documentary UÝRA: THE RISING FOREST

The Film Follows Uýra as they Harness the Interconnecting Power of Their Native, Queer, and Trans Identities to Blaze a Trail of Ecological Activism and LGBTQ+ Pride in the Amazon

Multi Emmy® Award-winning series, POV, illuminates Indigenous contemporary visual artist Uýra in director Juliana Curi’s feature documentary debut, Uýra: The Rising Forest. The lyrical and eye-popping film follows Uýra as they travel through the Amazon forest on a journey of self-discovery using performance art and ancestral messages to teach Indigenous youth the significance of identity and place, and how to confront structural racism and transphobia in Brazil. The inspiring film is produced by João Henrique Kurtz, Curi, Lívia Cheibub and Martina Sönksen, and co-produced by Uýra Sodoma.

Uýra: The Rising Forest, a co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and Peril and Promise, a public media initiative from The WNET Group, makes its national broadcast premiere on Monday, September 25, 2023 at 10pmET/9C (check local listings) and will be available to stream until December 24, 2023 via pbs.org, and the PBS App

Now in its historic 36th season, POV continues to share bold, visionary stories as America’s longest running non-fiction series on television. In addition to standard closed captioning for all films, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

In 1980, the town of Manaus in the Brazilian state of Amazonas had a river running through its center, providing the community with an abundance of fresh water. However, officials began to encourage the dumping of garbage into the river which impacted the health of the community. Now, decades later the artist Uýra conducts a performance piece dressed as a river creature dying in the middle of the debris to the crowds above them.

Director Curi follows Uýra’s journey as it takes them into the lush forests of the Amazon and beyond, gathering a group of LGBT members together through cultural centers and riverside communities. They share ancestral knowledge with Indigenous youth in the Amazon to promote the significance of identity and place, threatened by Brazil’s far right oppressive political regime led by president Jair Bolsonaro and five centuries of severe colonial indigenous policies. 

Through dance, poetry, and stunning characterization, Uýra confronts historical racism, transphobia, and environmental destruction, while emphasizing the interdependence of humans and the environment. Visually stunning—with impeccable cinematography by Thiago Moraes ‘Quadrado’—Uýra: The Rising Forest, written by Juliana Curi and Martina Sönksen, blurs the lines between documentary and fiction, showing that it’s possible to address Brazil’s structural violence while honoring the poetic aesthetic and enchantment of the Amazonian territory.

“After watching Juliana Curi’s, Uýra: The Rising Forest, all of us on the American Documentary team knew it was something special,” said Erika Dilday, Executive Director, American Documentary and Executive Producer, POV and America ReFramed. “The film’s cinematic brilliance is breathtaking. Juliana’s emotional intelligence in capturing the intersectionality between queerness, the environment, indigenous youth culture, mentorship and performance art is unmatched. This is a story that we know will transfix our audiences. At a time when misinformation and anti-LGBTQ sentiment has been in headlines across the U.S., it is more important than ever that we put front-and-center stories by and about non-binary artists.”

“We could not approach this story with cartesian and linear perspectives,” said director Juliana Curi. “We realized during the investigation process and filming that poetry and metaphor can have a powerful impact when we talk about socio-cultural issues. And, that this story has the power to break with the false segmentation that divides art films and social justice.”

Uýra: The Rising Forest has already traveled to indigenous and riverside communities in the Amazon, has been shown in more than 35 film festivals around the world, and now reaches POV, one of the most relevant a communication channel in the world that supports films that can promote social and political change as they dismantle foundational myths that support the homophobic, transphobic and racist mechanisms in our society.”

Uýra: The Rising Forest, made its world premiere at Frameline46: The San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival in 2022, where it won the Audience Award For Best Documentary. It won Best Documentary at the New Filmmakers LA Film Festival, the Grand Jury Award at NewFest’s 34th Annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, the Special Programming Award for Freedom at the 2022 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, the Jury Prize at London Film Week, Best Feature Documentary at the 2023 One World Media Awards in the United Kingdom, and was named the Best Indigenous Feature at the 2022 BendFilm Festival. 

Works by Uýra are currently being shown at a solo exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art. Uýra uses organic elements (such as foliage, bark, fibers, plumage, and natural dyes) to create elaborate costumes that blur conventional separations between humans, animals, and plants. The hybrid creatures and performance freely move between the forest and the city, ultimately commenting on the impact of anthropocentrism and industrialization.

Uýra: The Rising Forest is a co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), Peril and Promise, a public media initiative from The WNET Group, and POV. The director is Juliana Curi and the producers are João Henrique Kurtz, Juliana Curi, Lívia Cheibub, and Martina Sönksen. The co-producer is protagonist Uýra Sodoma. Juliana Curi and Martina Sönksen are the writers and Thiago Moraes ‘Quadrado’ is the cinematographer. The executive producers are Lívia Cheibub, João Henrique Kurtz, and Erika Dilday, Justine Nagan, and Chris White for American Documentary.

Uýra: The Rising Forest will be available for streaming concurrently with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

“[An] intricate weaving of environmental activism, indigeneity, performance art, queerness and transness.”
–Jim Gilles, The Hollywood Reporter

Uýra: The Rising Forest blurs the lines and boundaries that divide the documentary and fiction, as we are transported to the ancestral Amazonian enchanted world.”
–Brian Bromberger, Bay Area Reporter



Director: Juliana Curi
Producers: João Henrique Kurtz, Juliana Curi, Lívia Cheibub, Martina Sönksen
Co-producers: Uýra Sodoma, Abou Farman, Ezequiel Soules, Itaal Shur, Leandro Badalotti, Ram Devineni, Thiago Moraes.
Cinematographer: Thiago Moraes ‘Quadrado’
Writers: Juliana Curi and Martina Sönksen
Executive Producers: Lívia Cheibub, João Henrique Kurtz, and Erika Dilday, Justine Nagan, and Chris White for American Documentary
Editors: Lívia Cheibub, Lucas Camargo de Barros, and Renan Cipriano
Music: Nascuy Linares, Jam da Silva, and Josyara
Protagonists: Uýra Sodoma, Zahy Tentehar
Running time: 70 minutes
Countries: Brazil & USA I Year: 2022



About the Filmmakers:

Juliana Curi (she/her), Director, Writer, Producer
Juliana Curi is an award-winning Brazilian-Latina film director. Influenced by the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement and rooted in her journalism background, she has a body of work focused on powerful impact narratives. She began her career in the creative department of MTV Brazil directing the TV Show Base MTV with socio-cultural impact content on Grassroots Movements for the Brazilian youth. And has been directing social impact campaigns for global brands for more than a decade. Her art and film projects include: the exhibitions Pink Intervention (Spotte Art NY Gallery, Artsy), and The Battle of the Body at São Paulo Cultural Center, the film-manifesto Stereotypes to launch More Girls(the first platform focused on female talent in Brazil), and the campaign Sharing Makes us Better, awarded by UN Women as the best campaign in Latin America that breaks down gender stereotypes.

In 2022, she premiered her debut feature film Uýra: The Rising Forest. The internationally critically-acclaimed film was covered in outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The film was an official selection of 35 festivals and won 17 awards, including the Grand Jury Award at Outfest and the Jury Prize at the London Film Week. The film made a consistent distribution impact for indigenous and riverside communities, democratizing access to cinema in the Amazon. Curi is also founder of the filmmaking inclusion project EUETU Lab, which aims to strengthen the inclusion of indigenous, black, LGBTQIA+ and peripheral youth in the filmmaking industry in Latin America. Website: www.julianacuri.art / Instagram: @julianacuri

João Henrique Kurtz (they/them – he/him), Producer, Executive Producer
João Henrique Kurtz is a Brazilian producer, founder of Azores Filmes, a production company dedicated to projects that promote diversity and inclusion, especially within the queer community. Kurtz was Executive Producer to the children’s series “Radio Zoo,” Executive and Development Producer to Star+ Original Series Impuros, and Development Producer to Lucas Camargo de Barros’ feature film debut as a director, Petit Mal, co-directed with Nicolas Thomé Zetune, which had its world premiere at the 29th FIDMarseille. More recently Kurtz was the Producer and Executive Producer of the documentary feature Uýra: The Rising Forest, whose world première happened in San Francisco at Frameline46, where the film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. Following its première, the film was screened in more than 30 film festivals worldwide, winning several Grand Jury Awards for Best Documentary Feature, as well as a  “Special Programming Award for Freedom” at the 2022 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival, an award given for a film embodying a spirit of justice and activism. Instagram: @jhkurtz / @azoresfilmes

Uýra Sodoma (they/them), Protagonist, Co-Producer
Uýra Sodoma (1991, Santarém, Pará) is a hybrid entity, an interweaving of scientific biological knowledge and the ancestral wisdom of the indigenous people. They call plants by their popular and Latin names, but evoke their medicinal properties, their tastes, their smells, their powers. The result is an intricate and complex understanding of the jungle, a web of knowledge and research. Uýra present themself as “a tree that walks.” Born in 2016, during the process of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, the biologist decided to expand their academic research and search for ways to bring debate about environmental conservation and LGBT rights to communities in and around Manaus. In biology classes or photographic performances, in make-up and camouflage, in texts and installations, Uýra talks both from and with the forest.

Uýra said: “Since Uýra was born, I aim to bring the message of the forest to people’s eyes and hearts. My purpose is to observe the forest and seek a reconnection with it. The processes of violence against life such as tons of garbage, aggression against LGBTQ people, trans people, black people, indigenous peoples and women, are processes in which we do not recognize ourselves as forests anymore. They take away our inner nature, they take away our inner humanity.”

Lívia Cheibub (she/her), Producer, Editor, Executive Producer
Lívia Cheibub is a Brazilian producer and director based in New York. She values and practices a decolonial approach to production processes in film and TV. For the last 15 years, she has created, produced and led narrative, immersive and commercial projects for a wide range of clients. Lívia recently created, directed and scripted Sobrepostas, a thought-provoking TV show for Canal Brasil that addresses desire from the perspective of cis and trans women, aiming to deconstruct cultural stereotypes and create affectionate paths of free sexualities exploring the sexual poetics of different bodies and people. Her portfolio includes the interactive hypermedia project City Body, which won the Bolsa Funarte Visual Arts Award from the Ministry of Culture in Brazil and the short doc Mi Isla about Cuban visual artist and performer Raychel Carrión. She is also the founder and creative director behind Wild Galaxies, a production company dedicated to creating narratives that explore new representations of sex and affection in cinema.

She was a 2020 fellow at the BRIClab Film+TV with the film Uýra: The Rising Forest. Lívia is currently the Media Manager at Story Syndicate, a New York-based production company helmed by Liz Garbus and Dan Cogan and devoted to providing a home for up-and-coming directors to be supported as they grow. She is also a board member at Story Syndicate’s Inclusion Committee. Website: liviacheibub.com / Instagram: @livcheibub

Martina Sönksen (she/her), Writer, Producer
Martina Sönksen is a Brazilian screenwriter with education in communication and documentary filmmaking and interested in creating people-centered stories that inspire audiences to engage in positive social change. She is the writer and producer of the feature documentary Uýra: The Rising Forest (2022), whose world premiere took place at the 46th Frameline International Film Festival, receiving the Audience Award for Best Documentary. The film also won the Special Prize for Freedom at the 40th Outfest Los Angeles and was selected by the Competitive at the 46th Mostra de São Paulo, in addition to more than 35 festivals, 15 prizes, a mention of honor and an impact campaign throughout the Amazon using the film as educational tool.

With this film, Martina was selected for the artistic residency BRIClab Film+TV 2020, received support from the Doc Society Climate Story Fund 2021, in addition to participating in the Climate Story Lab Amazônia 2021. On television, she created, scripted and co-directed the series Sobrepostas (S01-2021/S02-2024) shown on Canal Brasil, available on Globoplay.

Her filmography also includes the documentary feature The Karma Killings(2016) selected by DOCS MX, DOCS Valencia and recommended by Film Bazaar; and the short film, The Pigeon Kings of Brooklyn (2015) available on Narrative.ly, selected as a Staff Pick on Vimeo and chosen by the Brooklyn Academy of Music to be screened at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Free Summer Movie 2015. Website: martinasonksen.com / Instagram: @masonksen

September 25, 2023 12:00am
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