Film: Ya-Koo





Franco Rubartelli
Assistant: Christian Castañeda
Music: Francisco Molo (composer)
1985. 105 minutes

Pepiwe (played by Jose Gregorio Payema) is a Yanomami boy living in a Catholic mission. After getting into an argument with his teacher about the name of his river (she says Rio Siapa; he calls it Periquitos), Pepiwe decides to return to the jungle to look for his family. He paddles down the Orinoco with his dog and parrot, and during a stopover on land he meets yet another nun (Flor Núñez), but not one from his mission. She pays the boy to show him the way to San Carlos de Rio Negro (by the Colombian border). He reluctantly agrees, but after a day's journey the nun tries to sneak away and loses the canoe. Ya-Koo has elements of a road movie with comically mismatched traveling companions, and the two leads have great chemistry, but it is much more than that. When we see Pepiwe in his own element, wise in his own jungle, feeding and caring for both himself and the lost nun in the beautiful and deadly rain forest, we feel that an entire culture and way of life is being celebrated. And also, perhaps, mourned. Ya-Koo is the Tupi word for good-bye. -Review by the Native American Films Organization