Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  78 minutes
Date:  1988
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 9-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Banking on Disaster

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The grave consequences of building a road through the heart of Amazonia.

Banking on Disaster

A unique and vitally important documentary about this century's worst environmental disaster-the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest. Noted British documentarian Adrian Cowell has spent the last decade filming the opening up of Amazonia, the last great frontier. In this film he documents the disastrous consequences of paving a road through the heart of the world's largest rainforest in Brazil.

The road through the state of Rondonia was partly financed by the World Bank. It was paved to help hundreds of thousands of colonists from other areas of Brazil move into the region to farm, but the effects on the environment have been catastrophic, and measures to protect the Indians have proven inadequate. Ironically, many of the settlers have gained very little. Poor soil and poor planning have meant that many attempts to farm the cleared land have failed.

The story is told in three chapters, the last of which deals with the late Chico Mendes, the leader of the rubber-tappers union, who was assassinated for his courageous efforts to halt the devastation of the rainforest and to create protected areas to be managed by local rubber-tapper communities. These 'extractive reserves' have since been characterized by the World Bank as 'the most promising alternative to unsustainable agriculture and cattle ranching.'

The scope of the film is epic, and to U.S. audiences it has a special resonance. It provides us with an uncanny insight into how our western frontier was opened, while documenting a burgeoning human and environmental disaster in the Brazilian rainforest.

'Gentle, detailed, immensely thoughtful.' The Daily Telegraph

'Provides compelling evidence that our U.S. tax dollars are used to destroy the rainforest.' Randall Hayes, Rainforest Action Network

'A must for a wide range of college classes from political science and anthropology to environmental science and ecology.' Choice

'Will interest all who are concerned with large-scale social change, the causes and effects of deforestation, and the tropical rainforest and its fate...it is extremely powerful, and I highly recommend it.' Science Books and Films

'An expose of the best kind--responsible journalism... Recommended.' **** Video Rating Guide for Libraries

'This is an excellent film for environmental and/or development courses at any undergraduate level.' Gail R. Pool, Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Brunswick (Anthropology Review Database)


Grand Prize, Medikinale International Parma
Best International Issues, American Film and Video Festival
Crystal Apple, Social Studies, National Educational Film and Video Festival
Golden Gate Award, Best Environmental Documentary, San Francisco International Film Festival
Best Educational Feature, 4th Annual TV Movie Awards
Best International Concerns, Vermont World Peace Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital


Main credits

Cowell, Adrian (film producer)
Cowell, Adrian (film director)
Cowell, Adrian (commentator)
Ferreira, Renato (host)

Other credits

Camera, Jimmy Dibling [and 3 others]; editor, Chris Christophe.

Distributor credits

Nomad Films

Nomad Films
Adrian Cowell

Docuseek2 subjects

Forests and Rainforests
Economic Geography
Government Policy
Latin American Studies

Distributor subjects

Climate Change/Global Warming
Developing World
Forests and Rainforests
International Studies


environmental, Amazonia,rainforest, Brazil, Jose Lutzenberger, Chico Mendes, rubber tappers, World Bank,"Banking on Disaster",Bullfrog Films

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