(I don't understand you)
A film project by:
María Laura Piaggio and Marcelo Dematei
In 1830 a young yagan from Tierra del Fuego, Jemmy Button, is kidnapped by the British Navy commanded by Captain Fitz Roy and transferred to London. He is instructed in christian values only to be returned to his land years later in order to civilize his people.
The Fueguian archipelago was populated for millennia by four indigenous peoples: the Selknams, the Kawésqar, the Haush and the Yaghan or Yamana. The latter inhabited the coasts of the Beagle Channel (called by them Onashaga) and the Cape Horn Islands (today part of Argentina and Chile). The Yaghan were nomadic canoeists and lived in intimate contact with nature and in spite of the inclement climate of the region they barely covered their naked bodies.
In 1830 in Tierra del Fuego, Orundellico (14), a young Yaghan follows Chelaé, his fox friend and protective spirit, and discovers a beached whale. Before dying, Wapisa, the whale, warns him of the arrival of the whites, people who know no limits. He listens to the stories told by his elders and meets Lasswea (13), a young girl who makes him blush.
Days later, there are news of the arrival of a giant canoe at Onashaga. The Yaghans prepare to exchange goods, but Orundellico is kidnapped by the crew of the HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Fitz Roy. On the ship there are three Kawésqar men: Fuegia (9), York (27) and Boat (20). No one understands each other. Orundellico is dressed, measured and baptized Jemmy Button. He wishes to return to his family but the captain has another plan with these indigenous men: to take them to England to be "civilized" and to be instructed in the Christian religion and then return to instruct their people.
Once in England, Boat dies of smallpox and Jemmy just thinks about survival. He stands out, learns English, arithmetic and loves to drink tea. As he loses touch with his past, he establishes a special relationship with Fitz Roy who trusts him.
After a year, Fitz Roy gets the King's support to make the return journey. Although Jimmy hesitates, Fitz Roy manages to convince him. They travel accompanied by a missionary and the young scientist Charles Darwin, who looks skeptically at the captain's experiment.
Back in Onashaga, Jemmy, dressed as an Englishman, is reunited with his family as the crew of the Beagle builds cottages and a farm, distributes gifts to the Yaghans and finally departs. Jemmy is confused and left alone as Fitz Roy has left everything in his hands. His Yaghan brothers don’t understand and don’t accept that the missionary assigns tasks and dresses the children, so they set fire to the cottages and trample the English farm. In the commotion Jemmy recognizes Lasswea and for the first time he takes off his clothes.
Months later, Fitz Roy and Darwin return and search for Jemmy among the ruins. They find him, have some tea together and invite him to return with them to England. But Orundellico has already decided: he is a Yaghan and he is going to stay with his people. Fitz Roy's experiment has failed. Orundellico is initiated and becomes Yekamush.
In 1864, on the coast of Onashaga, Old Yekamush (52) is sad because his people are dying. His descendants are still alive and face the challenge of maintaining the ancestral legacy of their elders.
Teke Uneka is the story of the encounter between two worlds that cannot understand each other. The prelude to tragedy.
In the first stage of development, this project has required a long research of documentary sources, previous interviews, all of them an ineludible reference (the travel diary written by Robert Fitz Roy, the travel diaries of Charles Darwin, the writings of Lucas Bridges, Martin Gusinde, Anne Chapman and others and anthropological research describing Yámana and Kaweshqar ceremonies, myths and narratives that deepen into the self-representation of the Yámana people themselves). We are currently counting on with the collaboration of representatives of the local Yámana community in order to validate certain representations, clarify specific doubts and ideally include the Yaghan language in the film.
We completed the first script writing, defined the creative proposal and started the first versions of the character design and visual concepts and the teaser is in production stage.
Awards and acknowledgments
in Ventana Sur
12th Raymundo Gleyzer Federal Competition for the Development of Feature Film Projects 2020 of the National Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts of Argentina (INCAA).
Feature Film Development Contest organized by TDFilms and the Audiovisual Development Directorate of the province.
Title: Teke Uneka
Length: 80 minutes
Animation with mixed techniques (rotoscopy + 2D digital +3D digital)
Film genre: Adventure, Drama
Argentina / Spain/ Colombia
Carlos Smith Rovira
Toni Marín Vila
María Laura Piaggio
Assistant director and researcher:
Carolina Robledo Forero
Executive producers Argentina