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The arrival of the massive Belo Monte Dam in northern Brazil represents a clash of realities for this 'Latin Tiger' economy.

There is the ever-increasing demand for sustainable energy balanced against the impact on those people trapped in the path of this dramatic change.

The dam's construction has displaced thousands of people and hundreds of villages but also represents valuable work filling a desperate economic need.

However, there is irrevocable damage to family life along the path of the Amazon's altered waterways. There has been a spike in domestic violence and an inceasing number of families are falling apart under the stress of dislocation.

Edizangela, part activist, part therapist and full-time community counselor is leading the fight to end the rising tide of increased family violence and self-destruction and gain a voice for those being dislocated.

By following Edizangela as she navigates these fragile family ties, this story also looks at her relationship to the outside world and explores the poetic balance between strengths and weaknesses, tension and love, kindness and suffering.

Through her endeavors we see a strong woman whose work and life can be transformational and inspiring to those around her.


By Rogerio Soares

The only way to travel to the town of Altamira in 1970 was by plane. Without a regular airline service, only small, single propeller planes braved the trip. The closest town with an airline service was Maraba, 500 km away. Between both cities, there was nothing but jungle. Pilots avoided the route as there wasn't a clear path in the dense forest for an emergency landing. Altamira was isolated, with no more than 3,000 people living off fishing and the fur trade.

The Trans-Amazonian Highway, built by the military, cut through Brazil's forests and changed everything.

Today, Altamira has 150,000 inhabitants and to arrive there is a profound experience. There is no public sewage system, there are vultures eating animal carcasses, pot holes and mud, and very little infrastructure. In a recent index of vulnerability for children published by the Ministry of Justice of Brazil, Altamira was rated the third worst city in the country.

Human trafficking, sexual violence, child prostitution, and abuse all affect the residents of Altamira.

Edizangela, the human rights activist and protagonist of this film, works as a community officer, trying to make sure the written laws that protect children in Brazil are respected and implemented. This is no easy task considering that during the last few years, 25,000 men have arrived to build Belo Monte, the world's third largest hydroelectric dam - bringing with them prostitution rings, drugs and an unavoidable increase in violence. The construction of the dam has broken the social tissue of an already fragile place.

Edizanglela is also a member of a political group called the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), with more than 10,000 members in Brazil.

The story of Belo Monte is repeated wherever a dam is built in Brazil: the local population is often discarded to make room for big development projects and the ways in which Brazilian governments have treated people affected by dams and other big development projects have not changed since the military regime. These populations are usually marginalised, poor, living in far away places, and in most cases, illiterate - easy targets for exploitation.

Belo Monte is no different and Edizangela fights against the dam as she herself was affected by the project.

So was Joao, her unemployed husband, a fisherman for 28 years who can no longer fish due to the building of the dam. He was relocated from a little island by the river and signed a compensation deal worth $1,200 , just enough to buy a secondhand bike.

My film follows Edizangela's routine, in the community council, at home and in her role as a member of MAB. I wanted the film to tell her story, how she fits into this moment in the history of Altamira.

A black woman, half indigenous, with very little education, Edizangela is a housewife who takes care of her five children and knows very little about the outside world. One day her husband comes home to tell her that he can no longer fish in the spot he used to as it is now the dam's property. It was then, when she saw her life and the food security of her family threatened that her life was transformed. She went to the streets to fight, and the more she learned, the more she grew. As she says, "I discovered myself as a woman through fighting for survival."

It is this character I follow in Mother of the Amazon - a woman who hit rock bottom and everywhere she looks there is something to be done to help those who do not have access to information and support from the state.

More than a heroine, Edizangela is a woman in search for justice. The more I got to know her, the more I came to admire her strength, even when she had to put her family on the back burner, to work harder and harder, multiplying herself tenfold. She is a woman that behaves like an army in a battle against social injustice.

Source: Al Jazeera