Dr. James Bogan’s latest film about Brazil will be screened this month as part of homecoming events at the University of Missouri-Rolla.
The general public is invited to the free screening of “The Adventures of the Amazon Queen” at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, in Leach Theatre of Castleman Hall, 10th and Main streets in Rolla. Audience members will have a chance to win door prizes imported from the Amazon.
Bogan, Curator’s Teaching Professor of art history and film at UMR, calls the 28-minute film a poetic documentary. “It chronicles the building and sailing of a scale model fishing boat. The little craft is launched in a spring, bobs its way along a creek, then through a swamp, to the Amazon, and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.”
There are many adventures along the way, including confrontations with alligators and boa constrictors.
The journey is narrated as a poem, an extended dialogue between the creator of the boat and the boat itself, Bogan says. The film is also edited so that it flows like a poem.
Bogan started filming the documentary by capturing footage of Manoel da Silva making a three-foot replica vessel from palm stalks. The 16-millimeter film Bogan used was purchased second hand out of a freezer. He later transferred the footage to video for editing purposes.
“One lesson I definitely learned is that alligators do not take direction well in English or Portuguese.”
Bogan worked on the documentary for more than ten years and traveled to Brazil four times for filming. He says the editing process has been extensive.
“In addition to documenting the construction of the boat, the film shows how the Amazon gets to be the Amazon, by the cumulative power drawn from small sources,” Bogan says. “It also portrays the people who live by the river and their bewildering variety of boats, from dugouts to large wooden passenger ships reminiscent of the types of ships that plied the Mississippi a hundred years ago.”
Bogan says he was befriended by “many wonderful Brazilians” during the making of the film. The documentary was co-directed and co-produced by Diogenes Lean, who also helped Bogan elude river pirates and urban ruffians.
Bogan has taught at UMR since 1969. His works of poetry have been aired on National Public Radio and he has made eight films, including “Tom Benton’s Missouri,” which has appeared on PBS television. Three of the eight films were shot in Brazil.
Earlier this year, Bogan received a $5,000 grant from the New York Artist’s League to help him complete “The Adventures of the Amazon Queen.”
Like the boat in the movie, Bogan says he was able to persist until his work was done. “The boat became a real character and persisted through disaster,” he says. “One lesson I definitely learned is that alligators do not take direction well in English or Portuguese.”