The circling threat in Curupira, Creature of the Woods is rarely seen but reliably heard. Directed by Félix Blume and featuring members of the Tauary community in the Amazon rainforest, there’s no on-screen dialogue, just subtitled voice-overs sharing stories of encounters with the titular mythological creature, while villagers listen on headphones to recordings that may or may not contain clues to its existence.
Unseen characters seem to track the creature, though there’s no equivalent to the Patterson-Gimlin footage to further convince or debunk. We only hear stories of the Curupira’s sirenic power, causing men to get lost in the forest and never return. People share contradictory claims about her sonic signatures, appearance, and modus operandi. It may be short like a child, with backwards feet, a face like a monkey and screaming from their belly button, which is—shades of the Death Star’s exhaust port—also the precise place it must be shot in order to die. It could live inside a tree trunk, or might manifest as a bird or woodpecker, mimicking elements of their song and rhythm to lure people deeper into the jungle. There are beautiful, inhuman sounds—growls and thwacks, whispers and hoots, trees and wind and birds. But what do you need to see to believe, and when are your ears enough?
The focus is on people as they listen, some with furrowed brows and closed eyes of locked-in attention, others bored, and some occasionally scanning the treeline, stressed and anxious. One sings about “The Pearl of Brazil,” and wonders whether the creature is an agent of anti-deforestation, ensnaring those who seek to exploit the forest for their own gain. In the end, it’s something like a Francisco Lopez recording mixed with suspense thriller, a climate crisis morality tale of environmental protection.