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HBO Documentary Films: They Killed Sister Dorothy

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They Killed Sister Dorothy airs tonight on HBO (HBO)

HBO Documentary Films presents They Killed Sister Dorothy tonight, Wednesday March 25, on HBO2 and will repeat a number of times after. Daniel Junge's documentary nabbed both the jury and audience awards at the SXSW Film Festival for its examination of the life and brutal murder of Sister Dorothy Stang. Junge's film seeks to explain what this 73-year-old nun from Ohio was doing in the Amazon jungle, and then follows the court case after her killers are apprehended.

At the time of her death, Sister Dorothy was at the forefront of a sustainable-development project in the Brazilian rainforest. She challenged those in power by helping peasants in their efforts to claim acres of land that loggers and ranchers wanted and sometimes illegally exploited. Needless to say she angered a lot of people... or as someone says in the film, she & "irritated" people and you don't live long if you irritate people in this region. When a trio of young suspects is arrested, a dedicated federal prosecutor named Felicio Pontes suggests that they are just the tip of the iceberg and that higher ups gave orders to kill.

Junge weaves an engrossing tale peopled with both fascinating and colorful characters. Sister Dorothy appears in taped footage and reveals a quiet determination and willingness to pursue her goals at any cost, and she ended up paying a steep cost for her beliefs. But as the court case expands its investigation, we meet a landowner known as Taradao, which translates as "sleazy," and his eccentric defense attorney, Americo Leal, who tries to convince the jury that the elderly missionary was really a U.S.-backed provocateur. Junge follows the court case for years and tries to present as many different points of view as possible. The result is a compelling, detailed work that will both stir anger and offer inspiration as it investigates not only Sister Dorothy's murder but a classic struggle between the rich and the poor, the have's and the have not's.

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