Trinkets and Beads

After twenty years of devastating pollution produced by oil companies in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, a new kind of oil company - Dallas based MAXUS - promises to be the first company to protect the rainforest, and respect the people who live there.

TRINKETS & BEADS tells the story of how MAXUS set out to convince the Huaorani - known as the fiercest tribe in the Amazon - to allow drilling on their land. It is a story that starts in 1957 with the Huaorani massacre of five American missionaries, moving through the evangelization efforts of Rachel Saint, to the pollution of Huaorani lands by Texaco and Shell, and then the manipulation of Huaorani leaders by MAXUS.

Now the Huaorani leader, Moi, is trying to unite the tribe in opposition to MAXUS. "It's not just about exploiting oil," says Moi, "it's about who controls the rainforest... it's everyone's concern because this is the heart of the world..."

Filmed over two years, TRINKETS & BEADS reveals the funny, heartbreaking and thrilling story of the battle waged by indigenous people to preserve their way of life. The story of how the Huaorani are attempting to survive the Petroleum Age on their own terms exposes hidden consequences of our relentless drive to "develop" the world.

"TRINKETS AND BEADS" is a wonderful old-school type anthropological film, telling a powerful story in a well-formed narrative. As the title suggests, the link between the 20th/21st century Amazon and 15th century North America is clear: what is happening now in the Amazon is equivalent to what happened to more northern natives at and since the arrival of Columbus."—Anthropology Review Database

"[The Huaorani] have developed considerable skepticism and sophistication about outsiders' intentions. This forceful documentary leaves the impression that accommodation will not prove easy."—The New York Times

"Upsetting and finally, infuriating... a fine work."—Peter Matthiessen, author of At Play In The Fields Of The Lord

"A heartbreaking tale, laden with harrowing images of waste and ruin, that shows how the rampant greed of oil companies has managed to destroy a once peaceful and pristine village in Ecuador."—Chicago Metromix

"An important film that should be seen by anyone concerned about the environment, first-third world relations, globalization, ethnology, and the role of missionaires. This film...helps us move closer to understanding how the common good [the entire earth and all its peoples] is to be incorporated into our decision-making. Unfortunately, it also makes you want to weep."—Bridges, An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Select Accolades

  • Best Documentary, 1998 Paris International Environmental Film Festival
  • 1998 Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
  • Best Cultural Survival Film, 1998 Telluride Mountainfilm Festival
  • Special Mention, 1997 Panorama of Ethnographic Film (Paris)
  • 1997 International Festival of Ethnographic Film (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Gold Apple, 1997 National Educational Media Network


Traveling along the cross-Andes route of an oil pipeline in Ecuador, a case study of the troubling connections between corporations, Western consumption, and the 3rd World.

Nadja Drost | 2005 | 66 minutes | Color | English

A barren rock island off the coast of Peru. Every eleven years hundreds of men come here, to dig up guano, the shit the birds leave behind.

Janos Richter | 2011 | 27 minutes | Color | Spanish | English subtitles

Continuing the story started in TRINKETS AND BEADS (1995), in Ecuador, the Waorani people resist the destruction of one of most remote and beautiful areas of the world.

Christopher Walker | 2019 | 90 minutes | Color | Spanish; English | English subtitles | Closed Captioned

A voyage deep into the Amazon to explore the implications of Brazil's policy on uncontacted indigenous tribes.

Silvio Da-Rin | 2012 | 87 minutes | Color | English subtitles