Review: Human rights’ importance clear in Amazon “rubber barons” film

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It’s our pleasure today to publish this post, which Hannah Coleman (below right), a member of the Georgia Law Class of 2017, wrote during her spring semester course on International Human Rights Law. Reviewing the feature-length, black-and-white drama Embrace of the Serpent (2015), by Colombia filmmaker Ciro Guerra, Hannah writes:

colemanEmbrace of the Serpent opens with the image of an Amazonian shaman, Karamakate, dressed in the authentic dress of his people. The man peers out over the river and quickly stands up as if he senses something. Then, a long boat pulls in between the trees with two men on board. Karamakate urges the two men to turn around and leave, but the boat continues to move closer and closer. Then, Karamakate pulls out a weapon and threatens the strangers to leave this place immediately. The audience can sense Karamakate’s tension and distrust of these travellers. Regardless of his warnings, the men do not stop, and the boat pulls ashore.

One man, Manduca, appears to be a native of the Amazon, but he is dressed in what Karamakate describes as “white man clothes.” Manduca refers to the second man, a white scientist from Germany named Theo, as his travel partner, and describes Theo’s rapidly weakening state. Karamakate is resistant to the new men, but his interest is peaked when Theo tells him there are still members of his tribe alive in another part of the jungle. The three men eventually set out on a journey, to find a sacred healing plant that they believe will rid Theo of his illness, and to find Karamakate’s people.

The audience is unaware of exactly what time period the film is set in, but the director provides clues in the form of discussions about white rubber barons coming into the forest and forcing the indigenous people into slavery in order to capitalize on the forest’s rubber trees.

The director skillfully focuses the audience’s attention on the impact the colonization is having on the indigenous people by concentrating on the journey of the men. Each time the men pull onto a riverbank to collect supplies, take a break, or camp for the evening, they meet someone different. With each interaction, the audience gains more insight into the horrors the indigenous people are facing due to the rubber barons, and we learn more about why Karamakate distrusts everyone. At one point, the three men arrive at a mission. This part was particularly interesting and disturbing because these people were stripped of their culture and forced into European practices. The mission consists only of young boys who are wearing white robes and not allowed to speak their native language. It was extremely sad to see all of these boys, taken from their parents at a young age, and forced to forget about their past.

After a while, a second story is skillfully woven into the movie’s plot. This story takes place several years later and involves Karamakate and another white man named Evan. Evan is following the diaries of Theo in order to find the same sacred plant Theo needed to cure his sickness. This second story is even more gut wrenchingly sad than the first, because Evan finds Karamakate in the same place that Theo and Manduca found him, only many years have passed, and Karamakate is still alone. It is clear that Karamakate’s memory is fading as he cannot tell Evan any details about his first trip with Theo and Manduca. But he agrees to help Evan find his way to the sacred plant.

boatAs these two follow the same pathway that Karamakate took many years before with Theo and Manduca, the audience is horrified to discover the lasting impact that the colonization has had on the Amazonian cultures. The most disturbing part of this story occurred when the two men arrived at the mission. They discover that this tribe of people has gone mad from engaging in cannibalism and likely inbreeding given their segregation from others. There are no Europeans left at the mission, so the tribe has taken some of the traditional Christian practices and interpreted them. This includes one man claiming to be Jesus Christ and tribe members forced to commit suicide. This portion of the film left a very powerful image of the horrors that entail when a group of people come into a community, strip them of their history, provide new practices, and then leave them confused and alone.

Until this movie, I had no knowledge about the European invasions of the Amazon to collect rubber, and the impact that this colonization had on the numerous cultures in that part of the world. The film demonstrates the impact on the indigenous people through Karamakate. He is the last remaining member of his tribe. Now, Karamakate has resolved himself to live in solitude where he is engrossed in loneliness. The impact of his solitude is really felt when the movie enters into the second story where Karamakate is the only man, living in the same place, alone, struggling to remember his past, and believing he is merely a shadow of his former self that walks the earth detached from his body. I can imagine many tribes in this region felt a very similar impact on their cultures during this invasion of their land. As their people are killed off, their traditions begin fading with their memories.

In my opinion, the most impactful statement of the whole movie was the dedication at the very end. While these images of death, destruction, and the loss of entire cultures, the director chose to end the film by dedicating the work to the song of those cultures and the songs we will never know. Those words have resonated with my since I saw the film. I am struck with such sadness that entire tribes have been forgotten; it is almost as if they never existed.

I am left thinking about how many times this phenomenon has occurred. Where the world calls for an item, such as rubber, so people invade, kill, and destroy everything in their wake in order to satisfy a desire. This being my first human rights class and my first international law class, this film demonstrated to me, once again, the importance of human rights and the uniting of nations to assure that people are not being stripped of their rights. I always knew that issues like this existed, but I never fully grasped the gravity of some of these events. It is interesting, sometimes it takes a movie based on true events to cause people, like me, to realize how history has a way of repeating itself. If we do not take care and protect people, we will continue to witness travesties such as the ones described in Embrace of the Serpent.

Center officer to visit China as World Affairs Council Young Leaders Fellow

kate - CopyPleased to announce that Kathleen A. Doty, our Center’s our Associate Director of Global Practice Preparation, has just been chosen as a World Affairs Council of Atlanta Young Leaders China Fellow.

She and nine other area professionals under forty will take part in an expenses-paid, ten-day journey to four cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.

Selection criteria for this Fellowship included global leadership qualities and ability to contribute to U.S.-China relations. Accordingly, during the October 2016 trip, Fellows will engage with media and business leaders, government agencies, and universities, in addition to touring cultural attractions like the pavilionGreat Wall and the China Pavilion at right, which was constructed for Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Doty, pictured at top, joined our Center in October after several years practicing international law in Washington, D.C. She was Assistant Counsel for Arms Control and International Law at the Office of the General Counsel, Strategic Systems Programs, U.S. Department of the Navy, and before that, Attorney-Editor at the American Society of International Law and Managing Editor of the Society’s American Journal of International Law.

At Georgia Law, Doty’s portfolio includes conceptualization and administration of: the Center’s Global Governance Summer School, a partnership with the Leuven Centre on Global Governance Studies in Belgium; Global Externships Overseas and At-Home; and research projects and academic-year programming. Her Fellowship thus promises both to strengthen our Center’s ties with our community and to make connections that will help us enhance our students’ global practice experience.

Our newest Masters of Laws

Saturday was the University of Georgia School of Law commencement, and we were very pleased to welcome to our community of nearly 500 LLM graduates the 15 talented lawyers pictured below. Congratulations to our newest Masters of Laws!

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Our LLM Class of 2016 posed on Graduation Day for a photo with Laura Tate Kagel, our Center’s Director of International Professional Education (bottom right). From left, the new alums are: top, Elisha Atulomah, Miguel David Medina Cordoba, Mahemud Tekuya, and Fazle Rabbi Chisty; middle, Huajin Tang, Kun Wang, Simon Wolffram, Xiao Zhang, and Deborah Nogueira-Yates; bottom, Ekaterina Knapik, Gladys Ashiru, Nastasja Spee, Socorro Moctezuma Flores, Tingting Tang , and Oluwakemi Kusemiju.

Summer 2016 GEOs: Georgia Law students ready to take on the world

GEO blog post photoThis summer, ten law students will benefit from international placements through the Global Externship Overseas, or GEO, administered by Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center.

These students have been awarded funding to enable them to earn legal training in law firms, in-house legal departments, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations around the world. Practice areas span a range, including refugee law, property law, criminal law, corporate law, and cultural heritage law.

2016 GEO participants include several rising 3Ls, who are headed to Europe and Asia:

► Bradley Dumbacher – GÖRG, Cologne, Germany
► Shirley Kathryn Griffis – Maples Teesdale, London, United Kingdom
► Brenny B. Nguyen – Boat People SOS, Bangkok, Thailand
► Jianan Zhang – Lenovo & Han Kun Law, Beijing, China

Numerous rising 2Ls also will be working ’round the world:

► Megan Alpert – GÖRG, Cologne, Germany
► Victoria Barker – DLA Piper, St. Petersburg, Russia
► Decker McMorris – Tosetto, Weigmann e Associati, Milan, Italy
► Claire Provano – Studio Legale Associato Rossini, Turin, Italy
► Carson Stepanek – Tosetto, Weigmann e Associati, Milan, Italy
► Hannah Mojdeh Williams – Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We congratulate them all on their GEO acceptance, and wish them an enriching summer. Can’t wait to hear travel notes!

Cade comments on immigration ruling

Cade_JasonOct15 - CopyGeorgia Law Professor Jason A. Cade was among the immigration law scholars providing media commentary on a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court issued on Thursday.

At issue was the interpretation of a term in the federal immigration statute: “aggravated felony.” An undocumented immigrant found to have been convicted of a crime that amounts to this type of felony is to be removed from the United States. In the case under review, Luna Torres v. Lynch, a 5-member Court majority construed the term in a way that eases prosecutors’ burden of establishing that the crime of conviction was “aggravated.”

Professor Cade (above) is an immigration law expert who leads Georgia Law’s Community HeLP Clinic and also serves on our Dean Rusk International Law Center Council. Regarding the judgment in in Luna Torres, Cade said in a Bloomberg BNA: Criminal Law Reporter article:

“I think it’s fair to say that the majority was simply uncomfortable with an interpretation of the aggravated felony provision that would have made it more difficult for the government to remove some very serious noncitizen offenders.”

The article is available in PDF here; the Court’s decision, in PDF here. Professor Cade’s publications may be accessed here.

UN affiliate CIFAL Atlanta: Our new International Judicial Training partner

Cifal AtlantaBeginning this year, Georgia Law’s annual International Judicial Training will be offered in partnership with CIFAL Atlanta, an affiliate of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, or UNITAR.

UNITAR_Vertical_Logo_35mm_Blue-Pantone279C-01-pngCIFAL Atlanta joins an International Judicial Training partnership forged in the late 1990s by Georgia Law’s 2016IJT_fullDSDean Rusk International Law Center and the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education of Georgia. For nearly 20 years, the trainings have provided provided a high-level learning experience to foreign judges. Included are seminars with distinguished Georgia Law faculty and visits to a variety of courts around the state.

As one of several training centers across the globe linked to UNITAR, CIFAL Atlanta works to build capacity among local governments and civil society leaders, with particular emphases on economic and infrastructure development, fair trade, and good governance.

The 2016 International Judicial Training, to be held November 27 to December 10, will advance Goal 16 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is

E_SDG_Icons-16“dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.”

Leaders of the new collaboration, which extends the trainings’ global outreach, include two Georgia Law graduates: Chris Young, CIFAL Executive Director, and Laura Tate Kagel, Director of International Professional Education at the Dean Rusk International Law Center. They work alongside Richard Reaves, Executive Director of the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education of Georgia, who brings decades of experience in organizing continuing education seminars for judges. Reaves’ extensive contacts throughout Georgia create opportunities for informative exchanges between the international judges and their U.S. counterparts. In Kagel’s words:

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In Georgia Law’s James E. Butler Courtroom, Richard Reaves talks with foreign judges during an International Judicial Training

“The International Judicial Training is more than simply an educational program. It can lead to significant reforms in terms of effective administration of justice and stimulate cross-cultural relationships that can bear fruit for years to come.”

Providing an example of this is Fernando Cerqueira Norberto, Secretary-General of ENFAM, the governing body of Brazilian judicial colleges. According to Cerqueira, Brazilian judges’ longstanding participation in the International Judicial Training correlates to the adoption in his country of innovations such as small claims courts, mediation procedures, and drug courts.

Judges and court personnel from all countries are welcome to apply for the 2016 International Judicial Training; further details and registration are available here.

Former Nigeria prosecutor’s LLM year features US practice experience

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Among the many talented foreign-trained lawyers set to earn Georgia Law’s Master of Laws (LLM) degree this month is Gladys Ashiru, who arrived with considerable experience as a prosecutor in Nigeria. She’s enriched this experience this year: in addition to her academic studies and a professional development trip, Gladys has worked as a volunteer prosecutor here in Athens.

Having immigrated to the United States, Gladys chose to put her career back on track by pursuing an LLM at Georgia Law. She says she was impressed by the collegiality she encountered during a visit to campus, and swayed by LLM graduates who spoke glowingly of their experience here.

Gladys’ strong interest in criminal law prompted Laura Tate Kagel, our Center’s Director of International Professional Education, to connect her with the Athens-based Office of the District Attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit, whose staff includes a number of Georgia Law alums. Assistant District Attorney Paige Otwell (JD 88) became Gladys’ mentor and introduced her to District Attorney Ken Mauldin (JD 80). After Gladys enrolled in Mauldin’s Spring 2016 Trial Practice course, he offered her the opportunity to observe and help out in the D.A.’s office. With the semester now at an end, Gladys recounts:

“It was an amazing experience for me. The internship broadened my horizons and exposed me to perspectives different from mine, especially in areas relating to jury selection and trials.”

After commencement on May 21, Ashiru plans to take the Georgia and New York bar exams, and also hopes to contribute to legal reform in Nigeria. Although she says that Georgia Law was challenging, she also found it rewarding, and calls it

“the best choice I made!”