This film tells the unlikely story of Randy Borman, a white American, who became a leader of an indigenous community in the Amazon. He dedicated his life to defend what is dear to his people — the forest. His personal story illuminates the Cofán people’s story and their struggle to survive.
100 Days of Optimism
Inclusion StatementThis is a film about the Cofán people. They are among the oldest surviving indigenous cultures in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They have fought to be visible and continue to fight for their rights The Film's director, Veronica Moscoso, is Latina, born and raised in Ecuador. The crew is 90% women.
About The Project
The film industry has bombarded us with stories about white men who save brown people. Randy's story is not like that.
I first heard about Randy Borman, the “Gringo Chief,” in 2010 when I read an article about him. His personal story intrigued me:: a white-skinned Cofan, wow! How did that happen? Why hadn’t I heard of him before?As a native Ecuadorian, I was surprised that I had never heard his story.
Randy Borman was born in the Ecuadorian Amazon and was only two months old when his missionary parents took him to a Cofán village. He grew up there, running around barefoot, hunting lizards, and swimming in the river like any other Cofán child.
The film industry has bombarded us with stories about white men who save brown people. Randy's story is not like that. Randy was born in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He was two months old when his missionary parents took him to a Cofán village. He grew up there, like any other Cofán child.
The arrival of oil companies in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 70’s meant tremendous changes in the life of the Cofán. As a young adult, Randy realized that his home and his community were going to disappear. Since then, he has worked behind the scenes helping the Cofán fight for their rights.
One day in 1991, he traveled to Quito with Cofán leaders to discuss their rights to own ancestral land with politicians. As a white man, wearing a suit, and the son of missionaries, his intentions accompanying the Cofán might have been misinterpreted. "Who is this gringo, anyway?" They might have said say. The Cofán leaders, who knew him well, asked Randy to take off his suit and join them as a Cofán. Randy went to the meetings wearing his Cofán clothes and, ever since, his role has been different. He is now a primary leader, no longer behind the scenes.
Over the years, he's worked to create many projects related to science, ecotourism, preservation of biodiversity, mapping and recovering Cofán land, and protecting their territory. He has received awards, for his efforts in conservation. One of his largest accomplishments was the creation of the
Cofán Survival Fund.
Although he studied and spent years in the US, he kept coming home, to the Amazon. In his 30’s he married Amelia, a Cofán woman. They now have three kids and two grandchildren together. It makes him immensely proud to see his grandchildren enjoying the forest the same way he did. He’s gracious that his activism, for indigenous rights and the environment, has made it possible.
Randy’s story is a is a fascinating tale of culture, race, identity, and community. He has taken advantage of his "whiteness" to help his people. His intercultural knowledge allows him to speak with the representatives of international NGOs in English; deal with ministers and politicians in Quito in Spanish; and meet with Cofán leaders speaking A'ingae (the Cofán Language.)
Through my reporting, I have had long conversations with Randy via Skype and over the phone. I also read A Future for Amazonia: Randy Borman and Cofán Environmental Politics, by professor of anthropology Michael Cepek. I interviewed Randy on camera in 2016. Randy's life and his worldview are unique.
The "Gringo Chief" phenomenon and Randy’s openness with the media has been the subject of articles and videos. Still, his fascinating personal journey and his activism should be better known.
As a storyteller and a filmmaker, I feel compelled to share his story with the world. However, Randy's incredible portrait can only be told with the story of the Cofán. Indigenous people around the world, like the Cofán, are guardians of the forests. I want my film to create the awareness that these people are protecting their ancestral land and stabilizing the world’s climate.. At least a quarter of forest carbon is stored on communal land. This is the untold side of the climate change story and it must receive more prominence in our global dialogue. If indigenous people lost their land, the whole planet loses too.
I have filmed in the Amazon twice and I’m very familiar with the unique needs and concerns of that particular environment. I won eight awards for A Wild Idea, a short documentary film about the protection of the Amazon. I am confident that I will make a beautiful and significant movie that will appeal . to a broad audience.
I invite you to come on board, support this project by donating to this campaign. Let’s make this movie happen!
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About This Team
Director and Producer
Verónica Moscoso is an award-winning filmmaker, author and journalist.
In 2011, Verónica earned a masters degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Her thesis, A Wild Idea, is a short documentary film screening in more than 30 film festivals around the world and receiving eight awards of merit and distinction. This movie remains as a significant contribution to understanding one of the most dramatic environmental initiatives to date.
She is the published author of two books, Historias con sabor a sueño (Dream Flavored Stories) a short stories’ compilation in 2001; and Los ojos de Carmen(The Eyes of Carmen), a novella in 2005. The latter has been translated to French and English.
Verónica employs a variety of media to craft her compelling fiction and non-fiction stories. She’s the author of various published articles, photographs, multimedia, video and radio pieces, both in English and Spanish.
Born and raised in Ecuador, Verónica left her hometown of Quito to live and travel in the Middle East and in South East Asia. She chronicled her trips through journal essays and photography. She settled in the San Francisco Bay Area where she continues creating content and storytelling.
Veromundo is meant to showcase her most recent work.
Director of Photography
Sachi Cunningham is a documentary filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism at San Francisco State University. Her award winning stories have screened at festivals worldwide, and on outlets including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, PBS FRONTLINE, FRONTLINE/World and the Discovery Channel. The Emmys, Webbys, and Pictures of the Year International have honored Cunningham's work. A graduate of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, Cunningham's documentaries focus on international conflict, the arts, disability, and the ocean environment. On land she has turned her lens everywhere from the first presidential election in Afghanistan, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the water, she has swum with her camera along side everything from 350-pound blue fin tuna to big wave surfers, to Olympian, Michael Phelps. Once an assistant to actress Demi Moore and Director/Producer/Writer Barry Levinson, Cunningham brings a decade of experience in feature films and commercial productions in New York, Hollywood and Tokyo to her career in journalism and filmmaking.