Secrets from Putumayo

(Segredos do Putumayo)
Aurélio Michiles | Documentary

2020 | 83 minutes | Brazil

A documentary about the man widely considered to be the pioneer of international human rights inquiries, Roger Casement (1864-1916). His work in Africa, Brazil, and his native Ireland still has repercussions today.


This is a documentary about the man widely considered to be the pioneer of international human rights inquiries, Roger Casement (1864-1916). His work in Africa, Brazil, and his native Ireland still has repercussions today.

In 1910, the British Consul General in Rio de Janeiro, Roger Casement, undertook an investigation into allegations of crimes against indigenous communities committed by the British-registered Peruvian Amazon Company. Narrated from his journals, Secrets from Putumayo recounts the horrific treatment he uncovered there: an industrial-extractive system based on killings and slave labor in the midst of the Amazon rainforest, "a real green hell." Shocked by his discoveries, and despite a heavy personal toll, Casement was determined to bring awareness to the British of their own colonial atrocities by revealing the appalling human cost of the rubber industry. Blending unflinching passages from his journal (powerfully narrated by Stephen Rea) with unforgettable archival images, the film makes space for the Indigenous relatives of the survivors to share the oral stories passed down by the family members, who also recount current struggles for self-determination against today's multinational corporations, just as fixated on extracting the resources of the Amazon.

Casement's pursuit of justice continued when he returned to his native Ireland where he became an active Irish nationalist, to be executed for treason during World War I by the British government.


"The production of the film is excellent. The narration, visuals, and music create a foreboding and poignant atmosphere that is effective at delivering the film's message. The decision to feature a reading of Casement's diaries was wise as it, combined with the visuals, gives viewers a strong sense of empathy as they will feel as if they are seeing the events through his eyes. This film is highly recommended for courses or collections in Latin American studies, history, or political science." —Kathleen H. Flynn, Science Librarian, University at Albany, EMRO

"Secrets from Putumayo is our Heart of Darkness, filmed with a sense of observation, a pertinence and a sensitivity that are rare." — Walter Salles

"Everything is exquisite." — Fernando Meirelles

"One of the most impactful films about the horrors of colonialism ever made in Brazil." — Sergio Augusto, O Estado de São Paulo

"This work is already part of the history of Brazilian cinema and contemporary documentary, giving new meaning to the archival material and building a direct connection between past and present." — Piero Sbragia, Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil

"At a time when the Amazonian issue is being discussed so much internationally, a film like Secrets from Putumayo, by Aurélio Michiles, is of the utmost importance." — Luiz Carlos Merten, Estado de São Paulo

Main credits

Michiles, Aurélio (film director)
Rea, Stephen (actor)
Gullane, Danilo (screenwriter)
Finotti, André (screenwriter)
Leblanc, Patrick (film producer)

Other credits

Cinematography, André Lorenz Michiles; editor, André Finotti; music, Alvise Migotto.

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Hot Docs Film Festival
It's All True International Documentary Film Festival
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DIRECTOR: Aurélio Michiles


YEAR: 2020

GENRE: Documentary

LANGUAGE: English; Spanish; Portuguese

COLOR / B&W: Black and white

GRADE LEVEL: College, Adults



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