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Sunset Over Selungo

in Culture Politics & Society Video 7241 views

Source: Sunset Over Selungo

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  • Brilliant cinematography and storytelling. Such beautiful people who are so well connected to nature. It's incomprehensible that this clear-cut logging is still allowed by the government to continue for all these decades knowing what scientists know now about the impact of the loss of forests to all of the earth. But the loss to these people is so tragic and so painfully well articulated in this film.

    In addition to the urgent support needed for this Sarawak project for the Penan Peace Park, we can also support "RSPO" sustainable palm oil products eliminating the market for these irresponsible rainforest loggers and palm oil farmers.

  • Fantastic work, Ross. And heartbreaking.

    It's trite, perhaps, for me to dwell for a moment on loss, but it is the feeling with which I am left after watching this. The many layers of loss. Loss of habitat for animals and humans. Loss of traditional knowledge and livelihood. Loss of security. Loss of a sense of place in history. Loss of hope.

    We live in a world today more defined by what we are losing than what we are gaining. I wonder when the balance tipped. When the growing number of extinctions, the haunting sense of poison in the elements, the frustration at millennia of experience-based knowledge gained now spurned... when it so overwhelmed a counterbalancing sense of striving for something better that a great many people have lost hope. (Or maybe there has never been a time in history when humans felt the positive outweighed the negative; that it is simply our condition to crave what once was.)

    And yet, there in Sarawak, where the change (the loss) feared is so chillingly dramatic, there are people with hope of being able to stop the slide. That, in its little way, gives me hope.

    Good people are good because, as revealed in the film, they show they can work hard, and because they have good minds and good hearts. And perhaps, just as it takes a kind of patience young people don't have to slowly slowly drill and chip and rasp and scrape and smooth a piece of wood into a blowpipe, so too the Penan may have what it takes to craft a lasting legacy, natural and peaceful, for their future. And ours. Against all odds.

    My question for you, Ross: Did you know what you were making when you started filming? Or did you simply start chronicling a meaningful lifestyle and culture (and the fantastic people who live it) and then find your way to a meaningful story?

  • Thank you Sonja, Ethan and Paul. Thanks for featuring the film here on Outbounding.

    My aim is to use video to tell the human stories that bring issues like the incomprehensible scale and severity of deforestation into a sharper focus, more emotionally engaging.

    I first heard about the Penan in early 2013 when I was looking for a story with that kind of potential. I approached the film by planning the order of events on screen roughly as you've seen it. It was important to do this before I actually visited because my limited communication meant I didn't have the luxury of recording hours and hours of footage - each interview was slow to be arranged, and I had to plan in advance what questions to ask because I couldn't speak Penan (very well, at least).

    I'm very interested in exploring audiences' reactions to different kinds of storytelling. For Sunset Over Selungo, I really wanted to avoid putting a foreigner's imprint on the film - it is meant to be an honest portrait that feels very much embedded in Penan daily life and the place, so I hope that's what people get from it.

  • Thank you, Ross for sharing the development of your creative process prior to the actual arrival and filming. You have clearly and very successfully told the story from the people themselves and made it their film and their message and not that of an outsider. Bravo.
  • I love how the opening of the film is of the clouds changing shape over the forest, and the closing is of the clouds moving over a beautiful sunset. Watching the film provoked in me, like most other viewers I would assume, a compassion for these beautiful, humble and passionate people. I appreciate how you gave us a sense of their heritage (especially the black and white photos) as well as their everyday routine. It was really sweet to see the dialogue, humour and love between Dennis and Unyang too. 

    Ross, I really do feel that you have successfully given the Penan people a voice that reaches people all over the world. The passion you feel as a viewer learning about their demonstrations against the logging company is very stirring. 

    My question after watching it is, what now? I feel strongly that a significant part of helping and honouring these people is by communicating their life in a beautiful and creative way - which you have done, but I would love to hear people's thoughts on what is a tangible way of continuing to share their struggle. 

  • Hi Hannah. Thanks a lot for your comment and for the encouraging feedback. I'm just a little late with my reply here, sorry - I've been on a return trip to Borneo, which went very well. 

    There is no decision-making conference or event approaching in the very near future that would determine the fate of the Selungo area. Nor are there funds or resources available to demand such an event from the grassroots currently.

    Mhopes for the way in which this documentary can contribute to the success of the park are by firstly enabling the gradual growth of a Malaysian and international support network online. This network of people who have seen and hopefully shared the Penan's story can stay updated via www.facebook.com/SelungoFilm and the newsletter. When key decisions are approaching, one or a few years down the line, I hope you can all help by acting as a springboard to gain momentum for the campaign and petition the decision-makers, be they the Malaysian authorities or international orgs that may be able to recommend the area be protected. 

    Secondly, I am encouraging viewers to donate to an ongoing Penan Peace Park fund. The representatives of the different villages involved are all keen to continue campaigning for the park's official recognition, but doing so incurs various costs that they simply can't afford, such as fuel for travelling to meetings in different villages. Without funding the campaign would sadly fade away. I will be planning with the PPP organisers, and advisers from the Bruno Manser Fund who have long supported the initiative, how donations received from this fund can be most effectively put to good use. It will be a gradual process, with the first decisions made after the PPP AGM next year. 

    There is no denying it will be a difficult battle, but that's no reason to ignore it.