Brian Moser on his first Disappearing World in Colombia

Yes, I will. The Last of the Cuiva. And that… well, the cameraman was Ernie Vincze, and Bruce White was the sound recordist. Dai Vaughan, again, was the editor. It wasn’t the first one we shot; we quite often shot these films three at a time, as it were. Well, I did. I got three films in Colombia. Okay. And basically, they started the series, but actually the first one was made… I’d found an anthropologist who was working in Venezuela on a similar type of tribe, called the Panare. And Charlie Nairn made that probably about six months before the first of the three Colombian ones ,which was The Last of the Cuiva. Now, that film was, I think we shot it second. First was Cuiva, second was Embera: The End of the Road, and third was War of the Gods. The location of the film was where the Andes, in Colombia, dropped right down into the plains. 


And the crew came out, the crew consisting, as I that time always tried to insist, and eventually the collapse of the original Disappearing World basically knew, because actually, you people, the PAs and the electricians, revolted at the way we were not prepared to take in extra heads of people. Why did we need a PA? And electricians, we used primitive lighting. We had leather belts which were crammed with batteries, and you had sun guns, sources of light. Anyway. So, we were minimal, minimal, minimal crewing. And it was absolutely essential that we did it that way. But we went down to the beginning of these plains, the Llanos, to an airport, which was one of the very first airports ever constructed in Colombia, it must have been the beginnings of the 20th century, say the 1920s. Anyway, down to this airport, and actually… no it must have been on this film. And we got stuck in a traffic jam going off the mountains from Bogota down to the plains, and I will never forget this, arrived at the airport. The aeroplane was just about to leave, and we had a lot of gear to put into it. We got done to the airport, and lo and behold, this plane was literally just about to take off! And it took off, I did a crazy thing, but it actually saved the day. I had all the money in a sort of watertight aluminium tube with a sealed top. So, I ran out onto the airstrip, I fished out one handful of notes, then fished out another handful of notes, and stood on the runway, and waved these notes at the aeroplane as it was taking off. In other words, “Stop, stop, stop!” And he did! He had to circle back around, picked us up, and off we went. But these crazy incidents that I remembered. 

Anyway, everything was going smoothly. We met the anthropologist, a marvellous French Canadian guy, Bernard Arcand. … And immediately that afternoon, we took off down one of the big rivers in this area, as I say, of grasslands, and we were going down this river in a large wooden canoe, with an outboard motor, obviously. And we came to the junction where I didn’t notice at the time, they suddenly said, “Hey, let’s stop here. It’s a little settlement.” And we got, I don’t know, beer, and lemonades in bottles, because they’re always delivered, Western food, from launches, fly the rivers and make their living that way. So anyway, we sat down on the riverbank. And Bernard said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about this on our journey down, and I’ve got a proposition which may be useful, maybe not. You’ve got two choices now, we either go up this little river or you continue downstream where we will work with the community of these semi-nomadic Indians. They’re very interesting, I know them all, and I think it’ll make a good film. They’ve all put clothes on now.” I mean, Colombia being a smaller sense of indigenous people. There’s a sense in Brazil, which is giant, you’ve got unknown tribes, or did have at that time, in the early 1970s… “Or we could go up this small river, clear water river, and I think there is a group which is still completely original, which will take us about a week.” We had to unpack our rubber dinghy. It’s one of these lifeboat-type things that you inflate. And we can go so far, we’ll take two Indians with us …. and we’ll go and see whether we can get in touch with that cousin, who is still completely nomadic.” With a nomadic band that moves all the time, is scared to death by the presence of the cowboys coming in with the cattle, but the Indians are armed with bows and arrows, and they are very good shots. They respect each other. Because they made metal tips, arrowheads, out of the machetes that were broken or whatever, which they traded with the cowboys. “And so, you’ve got a choice. We don’t know whether it’ll work out. We have no idea. But at least a week, maybe two weeks, but we will find and be able to communicate with this small group, we think there are about 30 to 40 people, and we can get their way of living. So, if you can get something of that, it could be a very good start to a film.” And I said, “Oh, without a doubt, we’ll go for it. Then we’ll come back with you, Bernard, and visit your community, see all the changes that are happening, very rapidly.” So, we did that. So that was a very important decision to have made – and it worked. 

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