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Week of 3.6.09

What Really Happened to Sister Dorothy

Sister Dorothy Stang Sister Dorothy Stang, an American nun, worked as a Catholic missionary in the Brazilian town of Anapu. The 73-year-old nun was murdered, execution-style, in 2005.

Sister Dorothy was from Ohio and spent many years in Brazil with Christian activists working to create a sustainable development program to help feed poor natives while preserving the Amazon rainforest. She helped implement a government project which supported sustainable farming development on rainforest lands. A lover of nature, Dorothy believed land should be shared and preserved equally by everyone. But not everyone appreciated her efforts. During the last years of Dorothy's life, her drive to stop the destruction of the rainforest made her an enemy in the eyes of the region's ranchers and loggers.

Wealthy landowners, ranchers, and loggers claimed the land set aside for the PDS was privately owned and therefore not for government use. They countered Dorothy's beliefs that the Amazon should remain intact and supported deforestation in order to build profit-generating farms and businesses. Men representing these interests are suspected in the plot to kill Dorothy.

The documentary, "They Killed Sister Dorothy," follows David Stang, Dorothy's brother, as he travels to Brazil to find the truth about the murder of his sister. There, he suspects that the three young men who admitted to shooting her were hired assassins connected to two rich and powerful landowners. Vitalimiro "Bida" Moura and Regivaldo Periera Galvao were both later arrested in the case.

The film documents the dramatic courtroom battle from the perspective of Dorothy's brother and fellow activists, the murderers, the powerful defense lawyers, and the region's ranchers. Defense lawyers for the ranchers claimed Dorothy was a U.S. spy and an arms dealer selling weapons to natives to destroy the ranchers' lands. Sister Dorothy's family and friends fought to have the case tried in federal court to escape the corruption of local officials allegedly paid off by wealthy landowners.

"They Killed Sister Dorothy", directed by Daniel Junge and narrated by Martin Sheen, won the 2008 South-by-Southwest Film Festival Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award for Best Documentary.

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