Modern Ruins – Fordlândia

4. Fordlândia – Henry Ford’s Jungle Utopia

Fordlândia, the American dream visualized in a town, is now located as a modern ruin in the Brazilian jungle and tells about the limits of globalization, long before this word was even invented. In 1928 the king of car building, Henry Ford, not only wanted to secure the natural rubber production for his cars with his model settlement in the Amazonas. He also had the plan to transfer the American way of living into the primeval forest as a civilazationary experiment. But as keen as his vision was and as determined as Ford pumped money into the project for 20 years, as merciless and relentless his dreams failed. Human and nature fought back – today Fordlandia is a spectacular, almost completely deserted and decaying town in the jungle, a modern ruin telling about the failure of the American dream.

Parts


  • moderne ruinen_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins (5 parts)

  • moderne_ruinen_kolmanskuppe_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins - Kolmanskop

  • moderne_ruinen_detroit_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins – Detroit

  • ZecheLohberg_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins – Lohberg

  • moderne_ruinen_pyramiden_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins – Piramida


Modern Ruins – Fordlândia

4. Fordlândia – Henry Ford’s Jungle Utopia

 

Everything had started so brilliantly, when Henry Ford chose the Brazilian rain forest in the 1920ies to cover the rising demand for natural rubber for the tire production, and to export his version of the American dream. Fordlândia was supposed to become a model-town following the American example – with roofing shingles, bright red hydrants and strict prohibitions. The native people should get used to a regular working schedule, independent from heat and weather, and for their health they were forced to eat unloved food such as rice, oatmeal and canned fruits. But the unusual project quickly came to a halt. Despite of a hospital and good medical supply the mortality amongst workers was high, Malaria raged, and already in the year 1930 more than 300 people lay buried on the cemetery. Furthermore the displeasure amongst the workers raised, because they didn’t want to adapt to the strictly organized working schedules and spent their wages in brothels and bars. Again and again armed mercenary soldiers had to interfere to appease the situation.

In the development of the plantations similar difficulties appeared like in the construction of Ford’s society. Forest clearance during the rainy season, destruction of the fertile soil by slashing and burning, as well as mistakes in the growing of the rubber-trees and the infestation with parasites lowered the hope for development. But the richest man of the world at that time didn’t give up so quickly: he exchanged the corrupt and incompetent management, fired most of the workers and had bars and brothels demolished. At the same time thousands of new workers were recruited and for a short period more than 8.000 people lived in Fordlandia. Streets were asphalted, schools, hair dressers, bakeries and butcher shops opened. There was even a golf course and regular gardening competitions. And since the king of cars from Detroit loved classical music, Waltz instead of Samba were played in the jungle on company festivities.

But the American engineers lost the true battle – against nature. Because they planted the rubber-trees close-packed, which should grow with distance from each other, they created an ideal hatchery for parasites such as fungi, bugs and caterpillars. Billions of trees died. Therefore natural rubber never has been harvested in Fordlandia, although in 1941 more than 3,6 billion trees were planted on the plantations.

When the 82-year-old Henry Ford withdrew from the    company, his son Henry Ford II as one of his first official acts sold all land owned at the Amazonas. Estimated by the contemporary price his father had invested one billion = 1 Milliarde dollars (one milliard? = 1000 Millionen). Today the gigantic water tower – at that time the highest building in the Amazonas – is a far visible symbol of this failed utopia. The remains of the American town are still observable, but they more and more melt with nature. Some descendants of the former workers live near Fordlandia. They know that humans cannot control nature and they tell stories about a rich man who tried to form nature and humans after his model and failed miserably.

The Protagonists

 

Miguel de Souza, son of a Ford-worker, who has stayed in Fordlandia with his family and now lives of state support. Whilst the former American settlement is completely left over to nature, about 800 people still live in the former barracks of the workers.

Teresa Sosa experienced the invasion of the Americans with their machines and their miserable failure in the green hell. Until today she lives together with her family in the workers-house, which had been given to her back then and is very busy in maintaining it. The modern American tin roofs corrode very quickly in the wet climate of the rain forest.

Carlos Mendes, representative for nature protection of the local government, is working on returning the 10.000 sqm area to the local people and the environment. Until today it is a very difficult task.

Director: Christiane von Schwind
Cinematography: Florian Pfeiffer
Editor: Johannes Hiroshi Nakajima
Sound design: José de Arimathea Fernandes
Composer: Eike Hosenfeld, Moritz Denis, Tim Stanzel
Graphic design: Susanne Radelhof
Line producer: Kathrin Isberner, Susanne Heinz
Production manager: Nick Pastucha, Sarah Maret
Executive Producer: Anahita Nazemi
Producer: Christian Beetz
Commissioning editor ZDF/ARTE: Marita Hübinger, Caroline Auret

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