• Clara (Thain Duarte), Vernica (Tas Arajo), Natalie (Dbora Falabela) & Luiza (Leandra Leal). (SBS)Source: SBS
Meet the women risking it all to stop mining, deforestation and environmental vandalism in the Amazon.
23 Dec 2020 - 8:15 AM  UPDATED 23 Dec 2020 - 8:15 AM

The Amazon is known the world over as one of the planet’s environmental treasures. It’s also a potential source of wealth for a handful of miners and developers, and under Brazil’s current government they’ve been given the green light to do what it takes to make themselves a lot of money. Plenty of people locally and in the cities are fighting back: Aruanas, Brazil’s first environmental thriller, is a dramatisation of their struggles – and if it inspires people to pay attention to what’s really going on in the Amazon, so much the better.  

Inspired by actual events (including a real-life whistle-blower report), the series follows the efforts of an environmental activist group as they investigate the activities of a powerful and politically connected mining company known as KM. Operating in the (fictional) city of Cari in the Amazon, KM seems to be at the centre of a mysterious wave of illnesses – but linking them and their popular owner Miguel Kiriakos (Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos) to any serious criminal activity is going to be tough, especially with lobbyist Olga (Camila Pitanga) by his side.


On the one hand, he’s a philanthropist, careful to maintain his image as one of the “good guys”; on the other, there are a lot of powerful people in Brazil who see development as a good thing for the Amazon whatever the cost. The locals’ health issues, deforestation, the damage done to the ecosystem and the indigenous people? They’re all secondary when there’s minerals to be dug up and farmland to be cleared. It’s no wonder territorial disputes between miners and the locals frequently end in violence.


Stepping into this conflict are three friends who, together with a newly hired intern, make up Aruanas, a non-government organisation designed to take down the polluters and environmental vandals trashing the Amazon for profit. It’s a full-time job that doesn’t leave them a lot of time for personal lives; unfortunately for them, their (somewhat complicated) personal lives haven’t quite gotten the message yet.


Natalie Lima (Débora Falabella)

A TV talk show host and journalist, she’s determined to get the truth about what’s going on in the Amazon out to the public. So while she’s helping the group get the message out, she’s also going into the jungle, meeting with the indigenous tribes and helping them get involved with the media to spread the word about the trouble they’re facing. As you might expect, telling the truth doesn’t make her popular with everyone.


Verônica Muniz (Taís Araújo)

One of Brazil’s top lawyers, she’s the one taking the fight to the powers that be in the courtrooms of the capital Brasilia. She’s also the one in charge of Aruanas, and she’s not exactly an easy-going boss to those under her (which isn’t good news for the new intern), but behind her often stern façade there’s a person with more than her fair share of struggles. Though considering the biggest problem with her home life is that she’s having an affair with Natalie’s well-connected husband Amir (Rômulo Braga), it’s hard to know how sympathetic we should feel for her.


Luiza Laes (Leandra Leal)

She’s the activist who was the driving force behind the establishment of Aruanas, bringing the team together to tackle the issues she’s been struggling with for years. As you’d expect, she’s pretty passionate about her work, and she’s often the one who’s out in front bringing the others along with her. As far as she’s concerned, sometimes you have to put yourself in danger to get the information you need to take down the bad guys. And if that means that occasionally you get taken hostage or find a dead body in the boot of your car, well, that’s all part of the job.


Clara (Thainé Duarte)

As the new intern, she’s the character who introduces us to the world of Aruanas. She’s an idealist, so while her beliefs are strong, the actual nitty-gritty of translating those beliefs to the real world is all new to her – and seeing the methods the others sometimes use to achieve their ends is something of an eye-opener. She also has a troubled past of her own, with a history of domestic violence she’s hoping to put behind her. But with everything going on, her past might be harder to shrug off than she thought.


Aruanas is now streaming at SBS On Demand.



Follow the author here: @morrbeat


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