U'wa leader and Terry Freitas demonstrating in Los Angeles

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

BBC Writer's Room script report

Blood of the Earth has an exciting premise made all the more compelling by its factual basis. Terry’s determination to protect the Uwa people and prevent oil mining in their region potentially makes for an inspirational and powerful drama.

The opening of the script is gripping and fast-paced, throwing the audience into an unfamiliar world seen through the eyes of an instantly likeable protagonist. It’s immersive, rich and evocative and the storytelling is economical and succinct.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Ever since discovering the story of the late Terry Freitas and his campaign on behalf of the U'wa people of  Colombia, I have wanted to make the events known to a wider public. The dramatic nature of what ensued after Terry took up the cause against the Occidental Petroleum Company in Los Angeles, led me to believe that it would make a great film drama and eventually to write the script.

The film covers the period of Terry's life from 1997 until his death in March 1999, a period of intense realization and effective action by this young man from LA who still holds an honoured place in the hearts of the U'wa people over ten years later. The campaign goes on, driven by the U'wa and friends around the planet, but the purpose of the film is not to be a direct part of the campaign, rather to spread awareness of one story that can act as indicator to a hundred such dramas continually being played out across the developing world.

I hope the script will come to fruition as a feature film to incite curiosity, to raise awareness and as a testament to the brave struggle of a little known hero and a people whose way of life and rich culture is under direct threat.


1999. Terry Freitas, a young Californian, is in peril, prisoner of armed rebels in a remote part of Colombia. As the crisis unfolds, he remembers the events that brought him here…

Two years earlier, a recent biology graduate from LA, Terry is on a trip through the Colombian rainforest when he stumbles on a demonstration by an indigenous group, the UWA, who are threatening to throw themselves off a cliff unless the oil exploration of their homelands is ceased. Terry witnesses the dispersal of the group by the Colombian army. Attracted by adventure and the power of their protest, Terry follows them high into the mountains, to their ancestral lands – the “Heart of the World”. Amiable and eager to learn, Terry is accepted by the group and invited to stay in their village. He is befriended by Berito, their campaign leader, and his son Kowa – an impatient, rebellious teenager who loves all things American.

The Uwa reveal to Terry their system of belief, the way their lives and customs depend on harmony and respect for the earth, whose blood seeps out as “ruira” - oil. They take Terry to a neighbouring village where he witnesses the forced eviction of all the inhabitants by the Colombian army, and the shocking death of an Uwa baby in the ensuing panic. Berito shows him the Government eviction order, obtained to allow oil exploration by the Occidental Petroleum Company (“Oxy”), based in Los Angeles – his home town. Convinced that he must bring to the attention of Oxy the effect of their activities on the local community, he agrees to undertake an initiation ceremony that allows him to become the Uwa’s spokesman.

Back in LA, Terry presents the Uwa petition to a senior VP at OXY, who smoothly deflates his hopes, explaining that OXY work only within the laws of any country that hosts them, and that oil development brings great benefits and wealth to the local communities. Terry’s ardour is re-awakened when he meets Amber, a charismatic young eco-warrior. She rejects his advances but adopts his cause, schooling him in the ways of community action. Soon he is working full time as an activist and putting the UWA campaign on the map. He brings Berito to LA to lobby OXY directly, and learns that Kowa has disappeared from the village, taking with him family money. Meanwhile with Terry, Amber and Berito working together, the campaign moves up a gear and Terry proves himself a capable and energetic leader. In 1999, Berito receives a major award, the Goldman Environmental Prize and the U'wa praise Terry for his vision and courage in helping them. Amber at last opens to him, leaving her long-time partner. But Terry is frustrated with life in LA, and yearns for real, effective action - in Colombia. Amber, fearful of the dangers of a return to the cloudforest, tries to persuade Terry to stay with her, but in vain.

Terry travels back to the Heart of the World with two American activists who are on a mission to initiate health and education programmes with the Uwa. The three are kidnapped by the guerrilla, jostling with the Uwa and army for control of the area. Amongst them is Kowa, who, impatient with the Uwa and Terry’s campaign has chosen direct armed action to bring about change. Kowa wants to protect the hostages, but the embittered and cynical commandant suspects the Americans of being paid by the CIA to turn the Uwa against them. He orders Kowa to kill Terry and the others. Kowa cannot save Terry but is inspired to abscond from the guerrilla and return to his family, to the Heart of the World, and the ongoing campaign.

BLOOD OF THE EARTH - Further Action

The aim of this blog is to gather and co-ordinate peoples' efforts into making this film a reality, whether they be campaigners, producers, financiers, actors or activists - anyone who is interested and can help.

The film project has the full support of the U'wa people and Terry Freitas family.

If you are interested in reading the script or have any other question about the project contact me at:

Please also feel free to post an entry on this blog if you wish. You can find further information about the campaign at: