The Ancient Worlds: 10 Must-Watch Documentaries spoken in archaic languages.

April 10, 2023

"Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going." - Rita Mae Brown

 mayan pyramids of guatemalaIf you are fascinated by ancient cultures and their ways of life, you might want to check out some of these documentaries that explore the history, culture, and traditions of the ancient world. These films and shows offer a glimpse into the rich and diverse worlds of communities, their struggles, achievements, their challenges, and hopes.

In particular, documentaries spoken in ancient leagues and indigenous communities have gained traction as a way to preserve and celebrate cultural narratives that may have been silenced or erased by colonialism and modernization.

 African tribe in red clothing walks backwards

From the Quechua in South America to the Wayu in Colombia and the Australian Aborigines, indigenous communities have been the subject of various filmmakers all around the world. These productions offer an opportunity for viewers to learn about the customs, traditions, beliefs, and struggles of these communities, often from their own perspectives. Additionally, documentaries and docuseries can highlight the impact of colonialism, imperialism, and modernization on indigenous cultures, as well as the ways in which these communities are fighting back against oppression and marginalization.


Ancient Mayas

Top 10 documentaries spoken in indigenous leagues:


First Contact


Is a powerful Australian docuseries that challenges viewers to confront their own biases and preconceptions about Aboriginal communities. The six-part series follows a group of diverse Australians, including a politician, a farmer, and a socialite, as they leave their comfortable lives behind and travel to some of the most remote and marginalized Aboriginal communities in the country. 


The Grammar of Happiness 


This documentary is about the language of the Pirahã people, an indigenous group in the Amazon rainforest who have a unique way of communicating that challenges traditional linguistic theories. The film follows linguist Daniel Everett as he studies the Pirahã language and culture, and comes to question some of his own assumptions about language and thought. Through his journey, the film offers a thought-provoking exploration of the relationship between language, culture, and cognition.


We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân

A woman in a ceremony costume

This documentary tells the story of the Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts, USA, who successfully revived their ancestral language, Wôpanâak, after it had been dormant for over a century. The film follows their journey as they trace the language's history and work to reconstruct it using historical documents and community input. Through their efforts, the Wampanoag people are reclaiming an important part of their cultural heritage.


Patuparri and the Rainmakers

Australian aboriginal with a grey t-shirt and beard

Is a documentary that follows an Aboriginal man named Putuparri Tom Lawford, as he journeys back to his homeland in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia, to reconnect with his ancestral traditions and become a rainmaker. Along the way, he must confront the impacts of colonization on his people and their sacred land.


Speaking in Tongues: The History of Language

Ancient civilizations

Is a compelling five-part series that delves into the fascinating world of linguistics, exploring the origins and evolution of the over 6,000 languages spoken around the globe. Through a comprehensive analysis of linguistic diversity, this series offers a thought-provoking exploration of the complex relationships between language and culture, and the ways in which languages are disseminated, adapted, and even lost over time. From the expansion of language into written form to the life cycle of language, this series offers a fascinating journey through the history and future of our most fundamental means of communication. Join us on a captivating exploration of the vast world of language, as we uncover the rich tapestry of human culture that lies at the heart of our shared linguistic heritage.


Land Within

A girl and a boy looking something with coats

Is a fascinating documentary that explores the intersection of identity, dreams, and culture through the lens of the indigenous Wayuu people in the desert region of La Guajira, Colombia. The film follows a young filmmaker who embarks on a journey to explore the connection between her own dreams and those of the Wayuu people, who believe in the power of dreams to shape their reality.


32 Souls

 The hands of a woman and an old book

Is a powerful and deeply moving film that explores the enduring impact of war, environmental damage, and shifting belief systems on a community in Myanmar. Through a combination of poetic imagery, intimate interviews, and personal reflections, director Sai Naw Kham takes viewers on a journey through time, inviting us to reflect on the past, present, and future of this once-vibrant community.


Dance To The Spirits

An African man standing in a road with a uniform.

The Evuzok tribe believes in two kinds of diseases - natural and those caused by sorcery from the night world. Mba Owona Pierre, the village chief and ngengan (healer), has a unique gift and an immense responsibility towards his people. Dance to the Spirits is a powerful documentary that follows Pierre's journey as he battles the mysterious and dangerous illnesses that come from the spirit world. The film offers a fascinating insight into the healing practices of the Evuzok tribe, with the dance to the spirits being the main ritual that Pierre uses to heal his fellow villagers. Through intimate interviews and stunning cinematography, Dance to the Spirits is a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of the intersection of tradition, spirituality, and healing in one of the world's most ancient and fascinating cultures.


Raising Resistance

a cowboy with a hand radio

This documentary offers an intimate look at the farmers of an agricultural town in Paraguay who have taken a bold stand against the dangerous practices of a powerful agricultural corporation. The film takes us on a journey into the heart of the global soy industry, exploring the impact of large-scale genetically engineered agriculture on the environment, on the health of the people, and on the local communities.


Trading Paradise

 A man covers the camera lens with his open hand

Is a revealing documentary by Swiss director Daniel Schweizer that exposes the environmental damage and economic frauds caused by commodity multinationals, including Glencore and Vale, which are based in Zug and Geneva. The film follows the efforts of NGOs to hold the companies accountable for their actions and engage political authorities in finding solutions.


 An indigenous man proclaims his rights on a highway

Streaming platforms, like Guidedoc, have become powerful tools for preserving and celebrating the histories, cultures, and struggles of indigenous communities around the world. By providing a platform for indigenous voices and perspectives, these productions help to counteract the erasure and marginalization that often accompanies colonialism and modernization.

The 10 documentaries and docuseries highlighted in this article offer a diverse and insightful glimpse into the lives of ancient leagues like Quechua, Australians Aborigines, Wayuu, and others. With the increasing availability of these productions on streaming platforms and other online channels, we have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the richness and diversity of indigenous cultures in new and meaningful ways.


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