Private Project

Bitter River

BITTER RIVER is a heartbreaking exploration of Brazil's worst environmental disaster: 2015's deadly Mariana Dam rupture.

Owned and operated by some of the world's most powerful mining firms, this iron ore tailings dam failed due to overfilling, ultimately flooding the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues, killing 19 people and impacting over 250,000 more. It was the world's single largest mining-related environmental disaster.

Through victim testimonials and first hand accounts, BITTER RIVER tracks the loss of life, land, and livelihood in the aftermath of tragedy.

November 5, 2021 marked 6 years since the disaster.

  • Khushnuda Shukuri
    Antarctica (2020), Generation Iron 4 (2020), Detained (2019)
  • Mark Albini
    Checks & balances (2019), First Day Back (2019), A God Amongst Men (2018)
  • Peter Ernsky
    Antarctica (2020), Venus (2018), No Costume No Candy (2017), Mansome (2013)
  • Mark Albini
  • Biagio Gulino
    Antarctica (2020), Venus (2018)
  • Khushnuda Shukurova
  • Savva Svet
    Fútbol Fever (2018), Bad Reputation (2018)
  • Mark Albini
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Environmental, Investigative
  • Runtime:
    33 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 1, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Portuguese
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • Oso Media, LLC
    Sales Agent
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Khushnuda Shukuri, Mark Albini

Khushnuda Shukuri (a.k.a. Shukurova) is an award winning filmmaker and editor, working in both documentary and fiction. She is based in New York City. Shukuri earned a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School University and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts: Radio and Television from the School of Journalism at The University of Montana. She has edited and directed award winning short narrative and documentary films, which have screened in multiple film festivals, and some of which have also aired on television; her short documentary film, Nadira, aired on BBC. Furthermore, multiple feature-length and short documentary films that she worked on were aired on PBS Montana, including Cannabusiness, which received the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Although, Shukuri began her work as a video editor in 2010 at The National Geographic Society in Washington DC. She has debuted as an editor for her first feature narrative Antarctica, just recently. The film is currently streaming on Amazon, iTunes and YouTube. It was not long until Shukuri was offered to edit another feature length film, a documentary about natural bodybuilding for Vladar Company. The film is a series of previous three successful documentaries “Generation Iron”, which can be found on Netflix. In addition, Shukuri has directed her short film, Detained, which was funded using blockchain technology. Shukuri has been awarded the Best Female Director in five different film festivals. Most recently, she won an award for Underrepresented Filmmaker and Official Selection for AT&T Awards 2020. Currently, Shukuri is working as an Assistant Editor with a team of creatives on another feature documentary film, which set to air in 2021 for major streaming platform as well as her feature film screenplay about a young woman breaking into male dominated sports team. The story is based on true events.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

When the Fundão tailings dam failed on November 5, 2015, 43.7 million cubic meters of toxic mining runoff — enough to fill New York’s Giants stadium roughly 24 times over — spilled into the Rio Doce and across the Brazilian countryside. The torrents of mud & sludge devastated the downstream villages of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo, killing 19 people and leveling over 200 homes. Eventually, the devastation spread over 650km, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

According to experts, the Fundão dam collapse was the global mining industry’s worst environmental disaster in history, both in volume of pollutants released and in damage done. Despite this catastrophic scale, the event has been all but forgotten outside of Brazil. In fact, I myself didn’t learn of the incident until late 2018 when it was brought to my attention by a personal connection representing the victims in a class action suit.

How could this happen? Who was responsible? This should have been bigger news; why weren’t more people talking about this?! These were my immediate reactions, and the questions our team set out to answer in making this film. However, the story took on a life of its own.

We investigated the causes of the disaster, and as expected the answers were simple: arrogance and greed. What weren’t so simple were the stories of the victims we encountered. Men, women, and children — lives & livelihoods — lost in the muck and the mire. We quickly realized that this film wasn’t about explaining the disaster to the world. Our job was to amplify the voices of those still living in the shadow of tragedy, and to help them bring their stories to the world in their own words.

In doing so, it was important to accurately depict how widespread the effects of this disaster were. Whether you lived next to the site or 650km down the river, the damage ran deep. We wanted to take the viewer on a journey down the river to understand the magnitude of this disaster.

This film will always be special to me because of how personal the subject matter was to our characters. Each of our subjects has their lives irreparably changed by an act of greed and negligence. Many were left with nothing. Despite this, they all wholeheartedly welcomed us into their homes, broke bread with us, and shared their stories. They explained the nuances of their situations, and just how deeply they were affected by this disaster. Their stories are vital, and it is our sincere hope that audiences feel the same way.

BITTER RIVER is a testament to those that remain: a call to action from the victims that must live on after tragedy.


- Mark Albini