Cinergía Movie File:

The Burning Season 

Directed by John Frankenheimer, 1994


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The Burning Season

Created by Diana Bernal, Janice Brack, Brandy Navurskis, Laura Riggins, and Kristin Sherwood

Scroll down or Click on any section to jump ahead:

Section 1: Pre-screening

Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism

    Section 3: Media analysis

Section 1: Pre-screening

Section 1:  Background Information

The Chico Mendes Sustainable Rainforest Campaign

In English.  This website gives general information about rain forests and offers answers to frequently asked questions about what is happening in the Amazon today.  It also gives information about Chico Mendes’ efforts to save the rain forests of Brazil.  Visitors of this page can view maps of the reservation areas, read information on the forest fires and make a contribution to the efforts that Chico started.  This site also provides a list of various books and videos that you can buy to learn more about the Amazon rain forests.


In English.  This website gives readers a general background on the history of Brazil.  It offers information about the different people, the geography and the economy of Brazil and it discusses the problems with the exploitation of the Amazon’s resources.  It also discusses some of the environmental issues that Brazil faces regarding the rain forests.


In English and Spanish.  This website gives a description of what the Amazon is like and what resources it has to offer.  It also gives a list of some of the different animal species that live in the Amazon and it describes the ecosystems and diverse cultures that live in the area.  Also, it describes exactly what areas of South America the rain forests cover and what types of reserves the people have been granted because of the destruction.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre

In English.  This website provides a list of many different countries that have rain forests and it gives a description of each country.  It provides information about which forests are now reserves and it gives a map of each region.

Quien era Chico Mendes.  La Tierra Sin Mal.

In Spanish.  This website provides a biography of Chico Mendes’ life.  It provides information about where he was born, where he grew up and it gives a description of what he fought for.  It discusses some of his successes and failures in fighting for the rain forests. It also tells how he died and explains the effect that he had on the world and what efforts are still being made today to save the rainforests.

Cuando los ángeles lloran.  Maná

In Spanish.  These are the lyrics to a song by Maná, a band from Guadalajara, Mexico, about Chico Mendez.  It describes what he did during his life and it gives an idea of the efforts he made and the struggles he fought in order to save the rain forests.


In English.  This website gives a good insight into the director of The Burning Season, John Frankenheimer.  It is an interview with him where he discusses the types of films that he likes to make.  He also discusses his beliefs on how to film movies, and how Hollywood abuses history.

Brasil:  y los asesinos de Chico Mendes

In Spanish.  This website gives information about the people involved in the murder of Chico Mendes.  It tells about their escape from prison and it gives information on the response of the Brazilian people to the lack of interest in recapturing his assassins.

The Seringueiros

In English.  This website gives an accurate description of who the rubber tappers are and what their purpose is. It tells how they tap the trees for rubber without endangering the trees. It goes on to discuss the problems they have making a living due to the deforestation of the Amazons.

Amazonia: Organización indígena critica a gobierno de Brazil

In Spanish.  This website discusses an organization that is against the governments destruction of the Amazon for economic progress.  It discusses ways to conserve the land and emphasizes that it should be used for and owned by the indigenous people of Brazil.

Pre-Screening Questions:

1.      Why are the rainforests so important to the world?

2.      What is one factor that makes Brazil a unique part of the world?

3.      Why should we be concerned with protecting the environment?

4.      Why have so many places in the Amazon been turned into reserves?

5.      Is Brazil the only country that has rain forests?  If not, name other countries that also have rain forests.

6.      What was Chico Mendes fighting for and why?  Why is Chico Mendes considered a hero of the planet, not just a hero of the Amazon?

7.      Does the song “Cuando los ángeles lloran”  represent the true story of Chico Mendes and does it do a good job of explaining what happened to him?

8.      What type of camera does John Frankenheimer like to use when he is filming? Why?

9.      When did the assassins of Chico Mendes escape from prison?  Is the government trying to find them?

10.     In the last fifteen years, how much of the forests have been destroyed in Brazil?

11.     What is the process the seringueiros (rubber tappers) use for tapping rubber from a tree?

12.     What should the Brazilian government be doing to conserve the land in the Amazon rain forest?

Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism  

Comprehension Questions

1.      Who are the most significant characters?

2.      What is the setting (location, time period, etc.)?

3.      Explain the life and culture of a rubber tapper?

4.      How does Chico Mendes become educated?

4.             How does Chico view his father? What event causes him to change his opinion of his father?

5.             Why does Chico protest?

6.             Why and how does he use non-violent means of protesting?

7.             What is an empate?

8.             How do the banks, government, and cattle ranchers justify tearing down the trees?

9.             What message is director John Frankenheimer trying to convey?

10.         From whose perspective is the movie told?

11.         What is the theme?

12.         What is the symbolism of fire? Are there any other images that could be viewed as metaphors?

13.         How does Chico develop throughout the movie?  Is he a static (same way throughout) or dynamic (changing or changed) character?

14.         Who murdered Chico Mendes?  Why?

15.         Explain the different interests of the rubber tappers, the cattle ranchers and the businessmen.  How does each group treat the Amazons?

Historical Accuracy


 you can find facts about Chico Mendes (his struggles, accomplishments, etc.), and Xapuri.

1.      How did the film help you understand the life of a rubber tapper? 

2.      Did it help you understand the problems they face?

3.      What did you learn specifically about the life and death of Chico Mendes?  How was he portrayed?

4.      Who is the intended audience?

5.      How big was the gap between the rich and poor people who lived in Brazil at that time?  How many people were educated?

6.      How difficult was it to start a union in that area of Brazil?  About how many people in the past had been murdered for participating in movements?

7.      What was the name of the road being paved, and who was responsible for funding it?

8.      Why do you think some names in the movie were changed?  (Who does Regina represent?  Whose real names are used and whose names are changed?)

9.      Does the movie stress other people who helped Chico?  Does it explain why and how these people helped him?  Describe.

10.     Where and how was the information gathered in order to make this movie?

Section 3: Media analysis  

Business Interest

This still represents Chico’s achievement towards saving the Amazon rain forest in Brazil.  This particular scene takes place when Chico is in Miami, Florida where the Inter American Development Bank is located.  Chico was brought to Miami to further express the importance of protecting the rain forest.  In this scene, the business man who has been trying to stop the progress of Chcio Mendes and his union watches Chico’s broadcast on television.  The key to the shot is the fame in frame and the comment on the use of the edit to communicate social struggle, which is a reflection of the film, The Burning Season.  The man watching Chico represents an ominous end for Chico and foreshadows his death.


Young Disciple

This scene is symbolic because it shows the relationship between the younger boy, Yenesio and Chico Mendes.  Moments earlier, Yenesio had been kicked by a horse and they are at the Clinica Sao Sebastia.  In the meantime, Chico tries to relate his own bad experiences with Yenesio.  Chico sees a younger version of himself in Yenesio.  One can see this because of the emphasis in Chico’s eyes and the caring and fatherly position of Chico.  Finally, this scene is most important because it starts the special bond that Chico and Yenesio have.  After this scene Yenesio wonders if Darli Alvez is the true model he wants to follow. The blood on Chico’s shirt is a symbol of future violence and his own death.  It is important to look at the positions of each figure.  The angle of the camera has their bodies apart and their heads together, which symbolizes that Chico is a thoughtful man, whereas his enemy Darli Alvez is a man of base physicality.  It is also important to note that Chico looks directly at Yenesio while the boy glances away, still unsure of whether to trust him.



In this still the cattle ranchers are ready to destroy the Amazon rain forest.  Chico and the members of the Rural Workers Union have united together to support the rain forest.  The still is significant because it shows the commitment and will power of all the rubber tapers.   This is the second confrontation with the cattle ranchers.  The linking of arms represents the unity and devotion the rubber tapers have for their cause.  The first still represents strength and power because Chico is speaking and they are all looking at the cattle ranchers.  The second still represents less confidence; they are not protesting and the man on the right is looking at Chico as if he were looking for guidance.  Perhaps he feels helpless because the cattle ranchers have weapons to fight with while the rubber tapers are armless.


United Together

All three men are facing the same direction signifying solidarity.  This still features Wilson Pinheiro, Chico Mendes and a third rubber taper. They were demanding that the cattle ranchers leave so that they can claim their own land.  It is the start of the fight of the rain forest against the cattle ranchers.  This was Chico’s first confrontation to stand up for what he believed in.  This scene is also significant because it starts the friendship between Wilson and Chico.  The sweat on their clothes represents their determination and the trees in the background remind the viewer of their commitment to nature and to their way of life.  The shadows from the trees can be seen as more solidarity form nature.

Media Literacy Questions:

1)      Whose point of view was not heard in the film?

2)      What were some of the values that were encouraged in the film? What did the film make you believe or feel passionate about?

3)      What did the creators of the film have to say about the role of the Amazons? Did the creators of the film make the Amazons seem helpless or very powerful?

4)      What was the purpose of the burning season? Was it more likely to persuade or inform its viewers?

5)      How does the film influence the attitudes of its viewers?

6)      How was the use of fire important to the film?

7)      Who is the intended audience for the film?

8)      What was the intended purpose of using Cashiru as the Amazon hunter? Did the image hold a deep significance in the film?

9)      What was the significance of the guns and the bullets in the film? What do guns symbolize and how do they relate to masculinity?

10)     How was the use of the old women expressed in the film? What was her significance to the film?

11)     Would this film be classified as a Hollywood film? What aspects make this film Hollywood or not?

12)     Is the fact that this film has a specific good character (Chico Mendes) and a bad character (Darli Alvez) a good thing? In what ways could it be bad that Chico is represented as being “perfect” and that the conflict is between good and evil?

13)     Was Chico Mendes represented accurately? Does history correlate with what was shown in the film?

14)     What was the significance of the end of the film?

15)     What does the tree hugging that occurs throughout the film suggest? Also, what does the representation of non-violence signify to the viewers?


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