In March 2011 and April 2012, Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima took part in two meetings of shamans at Watoriki village, in Amazonas, in order to collaborate with an audiovisual record of the meetings. The result of their work as witnesses is a medium-feature film with director credits shared between the duo and sociologist Laymert Garcia dos Santos, film researcher Stella Senra and ethnologist-author Bruce Albert.
Xapiri is, however, an experimental film that is not formulated around the idea of impersonal objectivity. In the words of Bruce Albert, it is “an attempt at using digital images to give weight to some yanomami ideas involving shamanic images, their ontology and aesthetics, their transduction and changeability in bodies. It is, above all, a visual homage to the intellectual and poetic richness of the yanomami shamanism.”
The film evokes the senses to follow the work of the xapiri (shamans, or spirit-people), from their meeting in Watoriki to the evolution of the Utupë rituals, when shamans draw in beings that help them in their healing-battles against the evil that assaults the world’s apparent cosmic-ecological order. The film’s camera and editing follow symbolically the ritual’s different stages with closeups, overlaps and distortions that impart the viewer with a deep immersion in the ceremony. Once again, Bruce Albert explains: “The work we’ve done with these images goes beyond a documentary record, producing a free technological simulation of the yanomami shamans’ visual and conceptual universe.”
Xapiri is placed in a part of Gisela Motta’s and Leandro Lima’s research, which began in 2005 from a collaboration work with Claudia Andujar in the Yano-a installation. In this video-installation, a B&W photo is projected and gains color as it moves. From a sequence of stills from the 70’s showing flames consuming an oca, Andujar, Motta and Lima overlap the still image of the oca with a live, moving fire, in color.