Grand Prix DOCU 2023: Interview with director Alex Pritz and producer Sigrid Dyekjaer, director and producer of The Territory

The Territory

The 13th edition of the Deauville Green Awards is fast approaching, and promises once again to be a time to celebrate environmental commitment through the screening of spots, documentaries and corporate films focusing on the ecological transition and social issues.

Before we meet you again in June 2024 for two days rich in exchanges and encounters, we take a look back today at one of the documentaries that marked the 12th edition: The Territory. Part of our team had the chance to chat with the director, Alex Pritz, and one of the film's producers, Sigrid Dyekjaer. An opportunity to learn more about the creative process.

First things first

alex smlAlex Pritz is an American director and cinematographer, co-founder of the production company Documist, which produced his first documentary, The Territory. Winner of the Audience Award and the Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as the Emmy Award in the category Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking, this first film was a real success!


sigrid smlDanish-born producer Sigrid Dyekjaer has been in the business for over 20 years. Accustomed to producing documentaries, she produced, among others, The Cave, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2020 in the Best Documentary Feature category. She confides that it's thanks to documentaries like Alex Pritz's that she knows she'll be in the business for a long time to come.


What is the film about?

Shot in Brazil, partly by the Uru-eu-wau-wau people and the film crew over several years, The Territory is a dive into the heart of the Uru-eu-wau-wau community. Their daily lives are punctuated by the struggle they have been waging for years to protect their ecosystem of tropical forest, which has been transformed into an island because of four decades of deforestation.

With testimonials and powerful images, Alex Pritz grabs our attention from the very beginning.

Powerful opening shots

The opening images give us an immediate idea of what the documentary is about. Then come softer images: the forest, footprints left in the water by children having fun, insects... The viewer becomes part of the story.

Why work on this subject?

"For years, we've been hearing in the media that the situation in Brazil is alarming. But I felt there was more to be learned from the people on the frontlines.” says Alex Pritz. With the threat growing increasingly dire for the Uru-eu-wau-wau community, he has decided to give them a voice in his documentary, focusing on the daily lives of a handful of men and women who fight every day to prevent their lands from being razed by invaders.

The protagonists of The Territory

Neidinha, an environmental activist, is the one who inspired the filmmaker to address this topic. Why? To highlight her voice and give her the international recognition she lacks, even though she has been defending her lands for over 40 years.

Bitaté, a 20-year-old young man, works tirelessly every day to defend his people by implementing surveillance operations throughout the Amazon rainforest to prevent trees from being cut down. His young age does not prevent him from leading a group within his community, which he leads with the confidence of someone who has been doing it for many years.

How did the local community welcome the film crew?

The film crew was warmly welcomed by some and less so by others. Neidinha welcomed them with open arms: Alex Pritz immediately understood that she was happy to talk about her story and the actions she takes every day. However, farmers and indigenous people were skeptical when they saw so many people arriving with big cameras.

The team managed to gain their trust away from the cameras by taking the time to explain the purpose of the project. From that moment on, the director felt it was important to let the local community film themselves to fully participate in the project.

A realistic documentary, intertwined with fragile moments

For Alex Pritz, understanding the dynamics of each group, the indigenous people and the farmers, was crucial so that each could tell their story in their own way. While indigenous people have little power in how their story is told in the media, the film crew has significant influence. Thus, there was pressure from the outset to live up to the task of telling the story of the Uru-eu-wau-wau in the most accurate way possible. Therefore, the documentary does not only focus on positive moments but also portrays the challenging situations many face daily.

The power of the film lies in the fact that nobody judges anyone; each person could tell their story in a safe space without feeling oppressed by others' judgment.

When asked what she likes about The Territory and why she decided to finance it, Sigrid Dyekjar speaks highly of it. "I loved it. For a first documentary, it’s amazing! When I met Alex, I knew he had a project that would impact people. And that's what I love about the films I produce: they have a real impact."

She also appreciates the fragile moments that appear repeatedly. The reality of the Uru-eu-wau-wau's daily life is depicted realistically, without glossing over only the good moments.

The eco-production behind the documentary

Eco-production is something that evolves throughout the film. They did not necessarily plan from the outset to eco-produce their film because it requires many compromises to satisfy everyone.

"In documentaries, it's complicated to be eco-friendly. If we want to tell stories that happen at the other end of the world as best as possible, we have to take airplanes," admits the director.

The community wanted to be fully integrated into the project; therefore, the film crew left room for the community in the production and filming of the documentary.

The Uru-eu-wau-wau at the heart of the project

Alex Pritz wanted to fully integrate the local community into the project, and this is what makes his documentary so original, touching and realistic. As a result, they participated in the production and filming of the project, alongside the film crew. There were no boundaries between professionals and amateurs.

"You can't follow the rules to the letter. Sometimes you have to do things differently for it to succeed!" Sigrid Dyekjaer tells us when she talks about eco-production and the community's involvement in the project.

"Listening, learning, asking questions, feeling the moment: these are the keys to making a successful film," says Alex Pritz.

The film's impact

Sigrid Dyekjaer explains that she enjoys producing documentaries that have an impact on the world, inducing change. She found the idea original, with a different approach to the subject. The central presence of a woman in the documentary further convinced her to participate.

Everyone was very surprised by the enormous impact of The Territory. Even though they worked hard and hoped for some success, they did not expect so much. After the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary continued to grow over the months, to the point that even today, the producer receives daily messages from people thanking her for the documentary.

For Alex Pritz and his team, The Territory is much more than a movie. It's a call to action, a powerful testament to the need to protect our environment and support struggling communities around the world. As the documentary continues to inspire and educate, it leaves a lasting legacy.

In figures


 Meeting at the European Parliament

Alex Pritz managed to show his film at the European Parliament. Most were deeply moved, and some even asked the team how they could help on this issue.

Many Danish politicians, the home country of producer Sigrid Dyekjaer, also saw the documentary. They were approachable, and discussions formed between the different parties on what they think of the situation and how they could move things forward.

Lula da Silva also saw the documentary! "We don't really know what he thought of 'The Territory,' but it's already great that he was able to see it," says Alex Pritz.

Continuing finding its own way

After this very successful first project, Alex Pritz says he learned a lot about himself and was fortunate to be surrounded by producers who were not afraid to embark on such a project.

In addition to Alex Pritz and Sigrid Dyekjaer, the documentary was also produced by the British Lizzie Gillett, the Americans Darren Aronofsky and Will N. Miller, and the Brazilian Gabriel Uchida.

Among them, the name Will N. Miller stands out. "It would be a crime not to mention Will! At one point, he was juggling 5 jobs at once because there was so much work," says the producer.

Above all, Alex Pritz is proud of his work because his initial goal was to make the film as beautiful as possible. It's safe to say that cinematically speaking, "The Territory" ticks all the boxes.

To discover new creations as powerful as Alex Pritz's, mark your calendars for June 12th and 13th in Deauville!