Silky anteater. Photo by: Tristan Thompson.
The up-coming documentary, Uncharted Amazon, promises to highlight both the little-seen wildlife and the people of the Las Piedras River region in the Peruvian Amazon, one of the most remote wildernesses on the planet. And if it’s trailer is any indication, the independent documentary will be well-worth the filmmaker’s six months of intense filming including botflies, flesh-eating diseases, flash floods, and days of waiting out the rain and the mosquitoes.
“On a normal day we’d get up at 5am, deal with whatever new problem had occurred during the night, wait in hides full of mosquito’s until 11 or 12, come back with no shots, talk about how we nearly got some shots, have lunch, get back in the hide at 2pm, finish at 6pm and repeat the following day until we got the shots,” filmmaker, Tristan Thompson, who had to head back to the UK early due to an infection by the flesh-eating disease, leishmaniasis, told Mongabay.
He added, “I don’t think any part of it was easy but most of it was fun and when we did finally get what we were after, there was a great sense of achievement. I mean who knows, everything in that short trailer could be gone in 50 years.”
Just a few years ago the Las Piedras River was largely untouched by the forces of industrial society. Today rampant illegal gold-mining, logging, bushmeat hunting, and roads are changing the landscape forever. Unlike many nature films, Thompson and fellow filmmaker, Declan Burley, plan to show the human side of the forest as well.
For Thompson, who is currently delving through half a year of footage, one of the major highlights included catching a biological parade of insects escaping a flash flood.
“We were setting up a hide to film wild pigs when I saw that a puddle was moving nearby, we watched it grow until it was up to our ankles then we ran thirty minutes back to camp to grab the right lenses, by the time we returned the water was a meter high and growing,” said Thompson. “We spent the next two days submerged in the torrent and the things we saw crawling out from underneath every log and every fallen leaf were utterly strange, never mind the things that were crawling on us.”
He also said the team was continually surprised by the wildlife they pursued. During one such case, filming butterflies drinking turtle tears turned into a sequence focusing on the turtles themselves.
“After several days of watching these turtle’s we started to notice them doing some strange things,” he said. “They would often ‘dance’ to scratch parasites from their underbellies and when they weren’t doing that they were battling it out quite viciously for a space on their prized sun-bathing log. You see pictures of these turtles sitting static in people’s holiday snaps from the Amazon and at a glance that’s all they do, just sit there. But dig a little deeper, wait a little longer and something interesting is happening, that seems to be the way with everything in nature.”
The film will be released to supporters later this year—it was partially funded through Kickstarter—while the filmmakers have big plans for a public release.
“We’d like to get a broadcaster involved and get this on TV, this way we can reach the biggest audience possible and show them the sights and sounds of this incredible jungle that is disappearing so fast,” said Thompson.