The geologist Lance Hackett is employed by an Australian mining company to map the subsoil of a desert area covered with ant hills prior to a possible uranium extraction. His work is impeded by some aborigines who explain that this is the place where the green ants dream. Disturbing their dreaming will destroy humanity they claim.
The Emerald Forest is based on a true story, as related by Los Angeles Times correspondent Leonard Greenwood. Powers Boothe stars as Bill Markham, a US engineer working on a dam project in the Amazonian jungles. Bill's young son, Tomme (played by director John Boorman's son Charley Boorman) is kidnapped in the rain forest by a tribe called "The Invisible People" because of their skills at camouflage - a group that has reportedly never experienced contact with Caucasians. The authorities give up the boy for lost, but Bill perseveres in searching for his son, for over 10 years. While fleeing for his life from The Fierce People - enemies of The Invisible People - he's rescued at the last minute by Tomme, now an adoptee of The Invisible People's chief. To Bill's frustration, Tomme initially refuses to join his biological dad and return to civilization, but when The Fierce People swing in and abduct all of the women in the Invisible People tribe, Tomme seeks his dad's help in rescuing them.