Friday, November 2, 2018

Fernando Santos-Granero's "Slavery and Utopia"

Fernando Santos-Granero is a senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama, and a specialist on the Yanesha of Peruvian Amazonia. His books include Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life.

Here Santos-Granero dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Slavery and Utopia: The Wars and Dreams of an Amazonian World Transformer:
While writing this book, it never occurred to me that it could be turned into a movie. Coming to think about it, I now believe that the story of the charismatic Amazonian shaman-chief Tasorentsi would make a captivating film, full of action, magic and drama. Since the life of its protagonist extended from 1875 to 1958, at least three actors would have to play his character. In the absence of professional Ashaninka actors, I would choose Native American actors Martin Sensmeier (acted in The Magnificent Seven, 2016), Adam Beach (acted in Suicide Squad, 2016), and the extraordinary Wes Studi (acted in Hostiles, 2017) to play the young, middle age, and mature Tasorentsi.

Javier Bardem would undoubtedly be great as Tasorentsi’s archenemy, Peruvian rubber extractor and slaver Francisco Vargas, who ordered the shaman-chief’s imprisonment and torture.

For the roles of the fanatical Franciscan friar Gabriel Sala, I would select Joaquin Phoenix; whereas for Ferdinand Stahl, the stern but compelling German-American Adventist pastor that inspired Tasorentsi to conceive the mixed shamanic-Christian creed that so much appealed to his people, I would go for John Ratzenberger.

Latino actors Richard Cabral and Benjamin Bratt would be perfect in the antagonistic roles of Samuel Figueroa, the scheming Rural Police Constable that relentlessly pursued Tasorentsi for subversive activities, and Carlos Gensollen, the incorruptible Army officer, who regarded with sympathy the plight of Ashaninka people.

Finally, I can see Native American actors Tina Keeper and Althea Sam playing the roles of Santana, Tasorentsi’s bright first wife and fellow preacher, and Lucrecia Pérez, his much younger second wife.

Because of the empathy, sensitivity and respect for indigenous lifeways that he displayed in Dance with Wolves, Kevin Costner would be my first choice for directing this film. If there is someone who could transform a scholarly non-fiction work like Slavery and Utopia into a work of art that would certainly be him.
Learn more about Slavery and Utopia at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue