In the year 2000, we approached the Amazon in the same way that many late 20th century travelers have arrived. We flew from Lima, on the west coast of Peru, over the Andes and into the headwaters of the river at Iquitos. We were still in Peru at this point, 3,600 km (2,236 miles) from the mouth of the river on the Brazilian coast of the Atlantic. Iquitos figures significantly in Werner Herzog’s classic film, Fitzcarraldo (1982).
We spent time on the Napo River, a tributary that runs from Ecuador to join the Amazon below Iquitos. It is associated with the adventures of Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Orellana, which where given bizarre fictional treatment in Herzog’s earlier film, Aguirre, (Ah-gear-ay) the Wrath of God (1972). Herzog has claimed this territory cinematically.
Visiting some nice villages along the river’s edge, and penetrating briefly into the rainforest on nature excursions gave us only the slightest awareness of life in this vast ecosystem. There have been prohibitions against contact with fragile tribes deep in the interior, making it necessary to rely on movies and documentaries for knowledge of this endangered world. The best movies I have found for this purpose are At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) and The Mission (1986).
For lurid Amazonian lore, see the Anaconda franchise.