The director, Estevao Ciavatta

Where to start when reporting a complex environmental story: an Insta Live with filmmaker Estevão Ciavatta

We spoke with filmmaker Estevão Ciavatta, whose documentary, Amazon Undercover, won the One World Media Environmental Impact Award in 2021. He is a writer, director and producer for television and film as well as founder and CEO of Pindorama Filmes, which he started in 2000 in Rio de Janeiro. In a recent Insta Live, which is now available on our IGTV, Estevão spoke to us about “Where to start when reporting a complex environmental story.” These are some highlights from our conversation. 


How did you get started with this film?

Around 2014-15, no one was talking about the deforestation rates and the amount of unprotected land targeted by land grabbers in Brazil. I had the idea for this film with the nonprofit I was partnering with at the time, which is one of the most important for producing research and data on the Amazon. I said, We have to do something bigger. I wanted to call attention to this situation. This is a big issue in our country and we got to put it on an international stage. This film was important not just for Brazil but also for my career. This was a film I had to make. I had a mission. So I put my money, my time, my spirit in this.

How did you protect the indigenous people that you were working with?

I always had a respectful relationship with them. They were the first to watch the film. Before I launched it, I went to show them the film. We organised a projection in the village and asked if they were okay with me releasing it. The film raised money to install Internet connectivity for them in the very remote part of the Amazon where they live. And the One World Media Award was important because if the film didn’t get the visibility it should, I would have just exposed them to the danger.

What inspires you?

The first thing is something that moves my heart, my inner soul. But other things are important too like asking yourself if you’re bringing something new to the audience?  It’s also important to understand what the subject will be in the future, in two or three years (foresight).


Estevão’s top advice for early-career journalists:

  1. Do what you believe in. Don’t wait for other people to call your work worthy. Trust your intuition.
  2. Always question your work but not so much that it paralyses you from moving forward.
  3. If you are making a documentary about someone or a group of people, be aware that you’re going to be connected with them for a long time. Choose your subjects based on who you want to deal with and how you want to be known.