At the end of September, the documentary Sunset over the Selungo was released. It beautifully portrays the culture of a community belonging to the Penan tribe, living in a very remote part of the remaining rainforest of Sarawak.
Sarawak, one of the Malaysian States in Northern Borneo, Southeast Asia. (Thanks Mongabay for the image….and for all of my tropical forest news!)
Though I’ve spent some time in Sarawak over the last 6 years, and so learnt a bit about the State’s many different tribal groups and their unique cultures, I was mesmerized when I watched this film last night. You get a privileged insight into just how skillfully these people live off the riches of the rainforest.
Then in the last few minutes of the documentary, the bomb drops/chainsaw starts. After cleverly drawing you in to the sustainable romance of the Penan’s forest existence, the Producer/Director extraordinaire (Ross Harrison) hits you with the hard-line campaign behind his piece: deforestation. Illegal and legal loggers are trying to move into the area, and have been for some time, despite its remoteness and importance to local and global communities.
Unfortunately, this is no new story for forest-based communities. A friend of mine, Dr Fran Lambrick, had the premier of her documentary, I am Chut Wutty, last month also. She tells the story of the incredibly brave Cambodian campaigner, Chut Wutty, who tried to prevent the logging and destruction of the forests in his country that many communities rely on for sustainable rubber tapping and a range of other forest products and services. He was killed. Probably under the direction of his own Government.
Before Chut Wutty died, he made a great noise about the injustice and destruction he saw, and generated action and support that continues in his absence. The Penan people in Ross’ film have created a voice for themselves too, and are working to create the Penan Peace Park. If you manage to watch the film and feel inspired to help their campaign, you can donate to it here.