Adrian Cowell


Adrian Cowell, the eminent filmmaker who catapulted the environmental movement to save the Amazonian rain forests
through the television series The Decade of Destruction and Banking on Disasteris the Center’s Visiting Filmmaker this semester. Cowell will guest lecture in SOC production classes during the week of March 20. His films will be shown throughout the city during the Environmental Film Festival. He also will hold two public events on campus as part of the DC-wide Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital.

dodimageBorn in Tongshan, China in 1934 and educated at Cambridge University, Adrian Cowell has been making documentary films for five decades. In 1955-56, he joined the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, an experience which launched his film career and his interest in Burma. The following year, he made his first foray into the rain forest of Brazil, part of a joint Oxford-Cambridge expedition of young filmmakers. These early trips became the seeds of Cowell’s award-winning epic projects. His series Opium was filmed over an eight-year period (including nine months when he was trapped behind the lines in Burma). His ten-year chronicle of the destruction of the Brazilian rain forests during the 1980’s–broadcast as the television series The Decade of Destruction (pictured above right)–stirred the world and contributed to the international debate on how the Amazon should be developed. In 1990, The Decade of Destruction was broadcast on Channel Four in Britain and on PBS FRONTLINE in the U.S. Adrian Cowell’s more recent British TV series include The Heroin Wars. It is a follow-up to The Opium Trail (1966), The Opium Warlords (1974) and Opium (1978).

Cowell is an environmental activist, cofounder of the Television Trust for the Environment and the author of two books on Brazilian Indians, The Heart of the Forest (Knopf) and The Tribe that Hides from Man (Stein and Day). He also wrote a companion book to the TV series The Decade of Destruction (Henry Holt and Company).