The Student, the Nun and the Amazon

There are moments when I get really excited by an unexpected byproduct of my own blog. One such happened a week ago when I met Sam Clements. Sam found me via some post or other here and we agreed to meet for a chat.

At first I thought I’d just be offering a bit of advice to him on a marketing project for his leadership course. Then he told me a bit of his life story. Rather an astonishing bit as it turned out. Here’s how the tale is told on his website studentnunamazon.com.

In the summer of 2003 James Newton and Sam Clements headed to Brazil with a video camera, a map, and the idea to make a documentary. It was whilst filming in Southern Brazil that they heard about the extraordinary work of US missionary Sister Dorothy Stang, a nun with a price on her head. For over 20 years she had been fighting to preserve the Amazon rainforest, while helping peasant farmers live sustainably. Inspired by a mere five-minute call to Sister Dorothy, they set off on a 2500-mile journey to find her. Little did they know of the dangers ahead, or that Sister Dorothy would later be killed by hired gunmen.

The Student, The Nun and the Amazon is a remarkable, touching, disturbing film. (Sam kindly sent me a copy). I can’t easily explain why it engages me so much but it’s partly its paradoxical mixture of innocence and sharp clarity about the brutality of the real world. On the one hand, Sam comes over as the intrepid explorer and yet also he’s a man with a mission and a point to make. The same can be said, in spades, for Sister Dorothy. Consider this description of her murder:

Sister Dorothy’s name had been on a death list for many years, although no one really thought it could happen to such a dear elderly lady. On February 12th 2005 whilst on her way to a meeting of poor farmers – on the same red dirt road we had travelled together two years earlier – two gunmen confronted her. She pulled out her Bible and read to them. They listened for a moment, took a few steps back, then shot her six times. In this lawless latter day Wild West, life is cheap. Her killers were paid a mere twenty dollars each for her death.

Since watching it, I find myself feeling very distant from the day-to-day consumerism I see in action here in London. Confronting the extraordinary challenge of making our life on the planet sustainable looms larger in my imagination.

There’s a very short trailer here: Windows Media

Quicktime

And heres a mp3 recording of James and Sam discussing their experiences on the BBC World Service.

Sam’s sunk quite a bit of his own money into making this video and I would like him to get some of it back. He’s thinking of recovering his money by charging for the DVD/VHS of this. I wonder if he should take a risk and offer it free or for a donation and aim to recover his costs by speaking opportunities or getting sponsorship from an organisation that wants to identify with this kind of brave endeavour. (I think he needs to make a longer trailer too).

5 thoughts on “The Student, the Nun and the Amazon

  1. Jeanne

    I am Dorothy Stang’s niece and we (her family) have all seen Sam’s documentary. It is powerful and so true to my Aunt Dorothy. She was an amazing person and she was also very intelligent and knowledgeable about the Amazonian rain forest and it’s impact on the world’s ecology. Many teachers here in the US may use it in schools. I believe Sam is working on getting that to happen and the sisters of Notre Dame are trying to help it happen. The more the word gets out the better. He is selling it right now, but he could cut a deal with schools to do some speaking and I think that may be in the works as well.

    Jeannie Erling

    Reply
  2. Sam

    O im looking for sam he inspired me how did u find him please help!!! Email me im in 8th grade and am 13 please please help!

    Reply

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