Celine Cousteau returns to Chile next year to film the Kawesqar

The tiny community of nomadic indigenous people in the Chilean Patagonia will be the subject of a film by the Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s granddaughter.


In her own words, Céline Cousteau is in love with Chile. The granddaughter of famous oceanographer and documentary filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau is a powerful conservationist in her own right, and first traveled to Chile in 2008 to scuba dive among the amazing marine biodiversity at Punta de Choros.

Earlier this year, a series on Cousteau’s underwater adventures through Chile screened on Chile’s Canal 13 television channel and won a grant from the National Television Council. It was during the filming of “Ocean: Chile and the Sea” (Océano: Chile frente al Mar) that Cousteau came in contact with one of Chile’s indigenous groups, the Kawesqar.

The Kawesqar, also known as Alacalufes, live in far southern Chile near Puerto Edén, in the Magallanes Region. This community of canoe-faring nomadic indigenous people is near cultural extinction, with only five living people who still speak the Kawesqar language.

“That journey was an incredible experience, and there was something that touched me deeply, and it was the story of the Kawesqar,” Cousteau said. The environmental filmmaker is returning to Chile again, this time to record the community’s traditions, language and legends.

“I think that when we talk about the environment, we can’t forget about human beings – especially a community that’s on the road to extinction. And we’re not talking about a polar bear or a bug in the middle of the rainforest, we’re talking about people,” she said.

“I want to return [to Chile] and tell the story of the Kawesqar through a short, 10-minute documentary, not because I want to save them, but because they are in a battle to save their language and their traditions. They are people who have lived with the environment in a sustainable and balanced way, and we can learn a lot,” Cousteau said.

The documentary will be available online for free, as well as distributed through educational institutions and possibly screened on Chile’s national television channel, TVN. Filming is scheduled to begin at the end of 2012, when Cousteau will return to Chile with her husband, camera man Capkin van Alphen, and her future child, who will be born in January 2012.

The production company, Cause Centric Productions, is working together with ethnolinguist Oscar Aguilera, anthropologist José Tonko and the president of the Kawesqar Committee in Puerto Edén, Juan Carlos Tonko. Both José and Juan Carlos are the sons of Gabriela Paterito, one of the community’s last surviving full-blooded Kawesqar and a local authority.