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‘He was ahead of his time’: Documentary on Roosevelt’s 1914 Brazilian expedition airs on PBS

On Jan. 21, 1914, 55-year-old President Theodore Roosevelt set off on a joint American/Brazilian expedition to map a mysterious Amazon river known only as the River of Doubt.

Along on the journey were a small band of Americans, more than 140 Brazilians hired by Brazilian explorer Candido Mariano Da Silva Rondon to transport the expedition’s cargo, 110 mules and 70 oxen.

Still reeling from a crushing defeat 15 months earlier when he failed to win a third term as president, Roosevelt had embarked on the journey hoping to cast aside thoughts of the election and test himself in the world of adventure that had sustained him throughout his life.

Theodore Roosevelt and son Kermit with buffalo while on African safari. (Courtesy of The Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library)

His wife, Edith, fearful that the loss had left her husband reckless, was reassured when their 25-year-old son Kermit decided to accompany his father into the jungle.

The story is told in the documentary “Into the Amazon,” written, produced and directed by John Maggio, and executive produced by Mark Samels, which airs at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 9 on New Mexico PBS channel 5.1.

Filmed in the Brazilian Amazon, the film features the voices of Alec Baldwin as Roosevelt, Wagner Moura as Rondon and Jake Lacy as Kermit Roosevelt.

Roosevelt’s trip also inspired his great-grandson Tweed Roosevelt to take the same trip in 1992, around the time he turned 50 years old.

“I think this documentary and story is an important thing,” he says. “It gives a different insight into Theodore Roosevelt. Americans need to be reminded of that.”

Tweed Roosevelt is also the CEO of the Board of Trustees of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and is featured in the documentary. Roosevelt says the organization helps keep his great-grandfather’s memory alive.

“TR was progressive about race relations and with women’s rights. He was ahead of his time,” he says.

Tweed Roosevelt wanted to complete the trek to experience what his great-grandfather did in 1914. “There were a lot of advances since TR did the trek and it was still difficult,” he says.

Roosevelt is looking forward to getting this story out to the world.

He’s also excited about it airing in New Mexico, where he once spent time working with the United States Forest Service at Carson National Forest in Taos.

“It’s a tradition in the Roosevelt families to spent time in the West,” he says. “The summer before I went to college, my grandfather arranged for me to spend time at the Carson National Forest. … Getting into Taos was amazing because I became like a resident there. I experienced everything that was going on in the town.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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