They Killed Sister Dorothy, a new film about the life and death of Dorothy Stang, S.N.D.deN., who was murdered in the Brazilian rain forest in 2005, recently won both the Grand Jury and Audience awards for best documentary feature at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Stang was a native of Dayton and belonged to the Ohio Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who created a Tribute Page on their website to honor her. At the time of her death, she was working with the Project for Sustainable Development, a government initiative created through Brazil's National Institute for Agrarian Reform which helps landless families benefit from sustainable farming systems.
The land was granted to the peasant farmers by the government, but is highly coveted by powerful ranchers. Stang, 73 at the time of her death, stood with farmers as they defended themselves against the ranchers and loggers who were evicting them from their land.
The area where Sister Dorothy was murdered, called "Esperança," (Hope) has since been reserved as a project of sustainable development. Stang, known as the "Angel of the Amazon," spent more than three decades working in the rainforest to ensure that farmers could claim and work their land.
Filmmaker Daniel Junge traveled to Brazil to investigate Stang's murder. Junge quickly realized that the trials of Sister Dorothy's suspected murderers, which included powerful loggers and ranchers, could "hold the fate of the Brazilian rainforest itself."
The movie was produced by Just Media of Denver, Colorado. It should be available for purchase on DVD when it completes its run at film festivals. For more information, see a movie review by Sarah Masters, Hartley Film Foundation, in Plainviews, an e-newsletter of The HealthCare Chaplaincy, and an article on Sister Dorothy in the 2006 Vision Vocation Guide.
People carry the coffin of Sister Dorothy Stang at a cemetery in Para, Brazil on February 15, 2005. Her casket is draped in a Brazilian flag.