Magnifying Glass


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Steve Schecter filming the Pebyê novices in 1975, while they were making life-long friendships by jumping into the water together. Raimundo Roberto, in the background, holds the sound recording microphone for Steve.
By 1975 I had spent over 30 months with the two Canela-like peoples, known earlier as the Ramkokamekra-Canela and the Apanyekra-Canela, the former being the tribe I refer to just as "the Canela." At that time we had in the National Museum of Natural History, the National Anthropological Film Center (now the Human Studies Film Archives), run by Dr. E. Richard Sorenson who saw his role to be the extensive filming of child training in disappearing societies all over the world. He sent one of his cinematographers, Steven Schecter, then a college freshman, to the Canela to film them under my direction for two months. I arranged Steve's adoption into a Canela family which had no children but which was close to other families of many children. This is how Steve became the neighbors of Pedro, Yomtam, and Carampei. Thus we are deeply grateful for Dick Sorenson's foresight and leadership during the 1970s and for the use of the film shot under his auspices.
Bill Crocker and Raimundo Roberto Canela during Steve Schecter's filming at the National Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 1995. Photo by Carl Hansen.
In 1994, Steve and I got together again and decided to make a Canela film, so we went to the custodian of the footage Steve had shot in 1975 and 1979 for permission to use it. Dr. John (Jake) Homiak, Director of the Smithsonian's National Human Studies Film Archives, is also an ethnologist and specialist in visual anthropology. By this time Steve had his own film company, Schecter Films Inc. During one of the first organizational meetings, Steve asked me what I thought the Canela core value was: what was central to their self-concept, what was fundamental to enabling their society to operate so well, and what had enabled them to survive with a large village population in contrast to other similar peoples? I said quickly "to mpey," since the answer was so clear to me. This expression to mpey (make good) could pertain to making something beautiful, making a problem whole, or fixing something. During the discussion on this expression's translation to English, Jake came up with "mending ways" which has remained the focus and title of the video, except for the Discovery Channel's showings since 1999.
By 1996, we had prepared a full version of the video that was structured along the ethnographic topics of the book written with my wife, Jean, The Canela: Bonding through Kinship, Ritual, and Sex (Crocker and Crocker, Harcourt 1994). Reviewers recommended, however, that we would have to go back to the Canela to obtain current footage to produce a successful film. We did this with considerable Smithsonian help during three weeks of the summer of 1997. Obtaining Canela help and cooperation was easy and uncomplicated, as it had been during the 1970s, because I had already spent years among them. Moreover, they are the kind of people who want to please outsiders they like, especially those who had helped them, and those who might still do so. Additionally, they had been filmed various times by Brazilian and German teams.

By the end of 1998 we had completed a revised version which emphasized ethnography less and the lives of the three featured Canela more. The style became more narrative and the role of women was covered more fully. I was satisfied with this presentation which was still ethnographic in emphasis, but Steve was more ambitious. He was aiming for a broader audience, including The National Geographic Society, the Discovery Channel, and famous film festival competitions.

By January 1999, The National Geographic Society became interested in our work. They told Steve that if they were to fund the completion of our film and use it, they would want us to stress four aspects more completely than we had previously done: (1) the extramarital sex system (e.g., by bringing sexual aspects up front), (2) the changes from the 1970s through the 1990s (e.g., by focusing on the loss of the extramarital sex system), (3) the lives of the three featured Canela (e.g., by additionally bringing out Pedro's jealousy, Yomtam's love of many men, and Carampei's roles as good father and husband, and (4) the human interest story of the ethnographer. Consequently, we hunted in old files for slides and prints of my earlier life among the Canela, and Steve interviewed me for the better part of two days. Thus, from hardly being in the video at all, I became featured and even one of the three narrators.

Carampei Canela, Escalvado, 2001.
Photo by Myles Crocker

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The National Geographic Society bought the international cable rights and the Discovery Channel bought the domestic rights to the revised film. The Discovery Channel changed the name of the film for their showings to "Intimate Truths of the Canela Tribe," altering the emphasis from conflict resolution to intimations of sex, much to my dismay. However, by contract, this change was their right. Nevertheless, we have been able to retain "Mending Ways: The Canela Indians of Brazil" for the video cassette version available to educators at and for the National Geographic international cable showings. The sharpest and most consistent criticisms of the video that I have received by March 2000 are that there was too much emphasis on sex. However, the popularity of the film (it is shown repeatedly by the Discovery Channel, 29 times as of September, 2002) does bring the story of the Canela to a wide audience.

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