Tsa’amri – The White man who became an Indian


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Adalbert Heide was one of many German youths, whose dreams of adventures in foreign lands were awakened by the books of the German writer Karl May. Moreover, this young boy from a remote area of Germany bordering Poland never forgot his childhood dreams, even as a grownup. At 29, he went to work as a missionary with the Xavantes-Indians, who live in Mato Grosso in Central Brazil.


ZDF 1991
Lenght: 77 minutes
Written and directed by: Eike Schmitz
Camera: Lars Barthel
Editor: Ingrid Landmesser
Commissioning editor: Dagmar Behnke

That was 37 years ago. Adalbert Heide has since become a chief, and has been given the new name “Tsa‘amri”, or “Chief of Peace”. He has studied the Xanvante language, their customs and traditions, and worked untiringly with his film camera as the tribal archivist. He teaches Xavantes schoolchildren, drives the village truck, and shows everyone films – he prefers “Winnetou-films”. He developed a numeric system in the Xavantes language, which – different from any other Indian tribe – allows one to count to infinity. And for years, he has been taking part as a hunter in the tribes traditional “Fire Hunt”.

Yet many things make one notice, that Tsa’amri is, in many ways, still Adalbert Heide. He actually has only one real friend among the Indians. If he speaks German to his Missionary colleagues at the mission, the Indians suspect, that he is saying something bad about them. And the Indians do not ever laugh at Heide’s jokes.

Quietly, using pictures without commentary, and through Adalbert Heide’s own narrative, the film portrays a life, which is a bizarre meeting of dream and reality. A romantic German moves to the jungle and must watch how his beloved Indian culture goes downhill over the years. It is a process in which he himself has been the bringer of civilization and even though his name is now „Tsa‘amri“, he remains for all times a stranger. His childhood best friend, Resi, still lives in his homeland Mähren, where they used to take care of the geese. When she tells the story, how her Adalbert took off westwards one day, she still gets tears in her eyes.