After decades of methodical environmental damage, it has become apparent that our vital life support system (Mother earth) is getting worse and in a general state of decline. One question on the minds of many people is: What happens at the end of this decline?
We are often told that we can adapt to the present state of the environment. But this assumption is increasingly being shown up to be false, as we observe the effects of global warming, the pollution of the eco-systems, potential changes in the food supply, ocean currents, costly weather changes, the destruction of raw materials (such as timber) and much more.
In any effort to educate the public and politicians towards action concerning the environment, three questions must be answered honestly and convincingly:
? Are we heading for a collapse of the world’s ecosystems that sustain us?
? What are the effects of man made environmental damage on local and global communities?
?Can we restore the environment and work alongside Nature instead of against Her?
For some, the answers to these questions are fundamental to their very existence. How long are we prepared to wait and watch as the environment rebels and fights back against Nature’s ‘terrorists’; whilst people, communities and populations are destroyed by mankind’s insistence on taking more than we are willing to put back?
In this verity documentary my team and myself, will focus and examine the devastating effects environmental neglect and over consumption of raw materials has had on a small village on an Indonesian Island named Bukit Lawang.
On the 2nd November 2003, a flood hit Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra.
Approximately 300 people have been killed, with 1400 made homeless. The village was a popular tourist destination, close to Sumatra’s main town, Medan, known for a relaxing friendly atmosphere, and famous for the orangutan rehabilitation centre. The flood hit in the evening, around 10pm, while many people were asleep prior to their 4am awakening for Ramadan.
The rain had been falling for a couple of weeks, and the river was already high. However on the evening of Sunday 2nd November the waters began to rise sharply, giving some people precious seconds to get onto higher grounds. For most people, however, there was no time to escape. A torrent of water came flooding down mixed with debris and uprooted trees from the constant illegal logging in the jungle, leaving the village in ruins.
Bukit Lawang is now unrecognizable. The entire bank of the river has been destroyed, simply washed away, along with many of the inhabitants, and tourists unfortunate enough to be caught up in it all. It has been commonly reported that the flood was the direct result of illegal logging, in an area were people rely on the river to provide their drinking water, bathing and sewage system.
I would like to shoot the film using classic verity style, with the use of interview (interpreter required), narration voiceover and music (where relevant).
Our aims are to educate the viewer on the wider implications of acts against the environment/nature, and the local/global consequences of these actions. By highlighting the hidden dangers often overlooked or disregarded by governments, companies and individuals, we aim to produce a piece that will illuminate the necessity to cooperate with Nature and its Laws. Or face a backlash that may result in a very live threat to the very existence of mankind.
We will attempt to take a comprehensive, observational journey through the country and its terrestrial surroundings, highlighting the rich environmental and cultural diversity within the Island/village. We will explore the anthropology of the village (and near by villages) and it’s inhabitants in an attempt for the audience to get a feel for the way of life of the populace and also their reliance and subsistence of Nature. (For example: the use of timber/plants for building homes, fishermen and their activities within the rivers, the use of plants for medicinal purposes, their Spiritual/symbolic beliefs, their farming/hunting/cultivating techniques and economic systems.
We follow a group of fishermen out one dawn onto the rivers .A fisherman is cut whilst out casting nets into the river. We see how the men/women of the village use leaves and barks as an antiseptic, as opposed to westernized medicine.
A young couple in a nearby village are getting married. We see the preparations being made and the different roles undertaken by the males and females of the village. We also get a look at the symbolic nature and spiritual aspect of the festivities.
The next phase of the documentary (will be observational, but include narration) focusing on the rapid destruction of Indonesia’s forests, and the local effects of ‘logging’ on the environment.
The area is hit by floods every year, but environmentalists claim that illegal logging has stripped the area of much tree cover and other vegetation which would normally protect and absorb water during rainy season. We will attempt to define and clarify what ‘logging’ actually is (using computer generated graphics and on-site filming) and also interview both legal and illegal loggers (through the use of an interpreter) if possible. We shall also contact and get the views of local and global environmentalists and environment scientists to give views, research and scientific evidence to support any claims made.
We then progress to the actual flooding of Bukit Lawang, using archive video footage (with permission) from BBC News, CNN and Lonely Planet of the tragedy. This first section will be heavily narrated, and will include video footage, newspaper clippings, sound bites and photographs (again with permission) of the event.
Video footage of total havoc and devastation: the villagers piling the bodies of the dead high into a pile. Children crying, clinging to mothers, homes being washed away and destroyed in front of the very eyes of the owners, and the clean up operation undertaken by the army in trying to rescue survivors. (The mood will be very somber and frightening; the music chosen will also reflect this.)
Footage will be included of Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim claiming the disaster was “Exacerbated by extensive illegal logging in the hillside area.” And also describing the illegal loggers as “terrorists, with the consequence of the disaster being as dangerous as a nuclear bomb!”
This will also be tied up with filming the effects of the flood on the villagers who have lost family and loves one’s in the flood, children who have been orphaned, schools destroyed and homes lost (1400 people are believed to be homeless, although the kindness of the families and others means that most have somewhere to stay). This section will also include narration and interviews with those willing to talk on camera. (Voice over will be added in post production).
I have discovered three eye witnesses to the event; a Mr Anthony Hurford, who was living in Bukit Lawang for the last two months doing volunteer work, Mr Agun Jungle (and baby daughter), who is a villager and one of the survivors of the flood, who is now trying to make a living organizing trekking trips around the Island, and Dutch tourist, Leo Zwetsloot, staying at the Bukit Lawang Cottage Hotel. I endeavor to interview the subjects and get their similar or contradicting (as the case may be) experiences of the flood, who/what they felt was to blame for the tragedy and the after effects on their lives.
(Voice-over alongside archive video footage)
Eye-witness and survivor, Anthony Hurord, gives his live account of the panic, terror and devastation of the flood. “Houses, people and trees were swept down the river…A massive pile, maybe the size of a football pitch; of huge tree trunks personal belongings, bodies and the odd tin roof…There simply is no village.”
We speak with one of the ‘Elders’ of the village, an old man, who survived the flood by quick thinking and helpful neighbors, who dragged him up the village and into safety. The man used to survive on his son’s income from illegal logging, and now must rely on the kindness of the other villagers, as his son’s have both been killed in the disaster. We see his shame at having played a passive role in the disaster, and the other villager’s reactions and treatment of him since. He valued the income at the time, but was oblivious to its catastrophic consequences. We get a sense of the community’s resentment at the Government (and the ‘elder!’), for not doing enough to stop the illegal logging trade which benefited a few, yet ultimately cost him the lives of many. A council is also called to decide on the fate of the known illegal loggers and their supporters within the community, (These scenes will be spread out to conclude during the duration of the documentary.)
The film will progress (using observation, narration and interviews about the immediate and government aid necessary for the up building of the village. The attempt of the community to rebuild itself, its schools, homes, environment and economy. An attempt will also be made to conduct government interviews with the environment Minister and the President and get their opinion/views on the current situation.
(We will aim to ask hard hitting questions about the government’s knowledge of the illegal logging trade. Asking who knew of these activities and why wasn’t more down to police the issue? Who benefited most from this illegal trade? Does the government feel even partially responsible for the deaths of hundreds of its populace? And question what it intends to do to prevent a situation like this occurring again?
President getting increasingly uncomfortable at the barrage of questions, resulting in a refusal to answer anymore and the termination of the interview.
We will conclude with the final statements of the environmental scientists, and their opinions for the future, of not just Bukit Lawang, but of the globe in general.
Scientific evidence for greater action is becoming clearer, but it is yet to become incorporated into an effective economic action plan for preserving and restoring the environment. In fact we seem to be going in the opposite direction, while environment researchers continue to gather evidence indicating that powerful action must be implemented at all levels of government and in communities all around the world. Using computer technology we will visually replicate images of the deterioration of the planet if we continue on our present course. We will use facts from various environmental agencies on the present state of affairs globally, and their predictions/solutions for the future.
Our last shots are of a ‘council of elders’ debating, and finally reaching a decision on the future of the illegal loggers within the community, and of Agun Jungles attempts at attracting tourists onto his tours (with little success). Agun realizes he has to leave the village if he is to carve out a life for himself and his young daughter. We see him on a small boat traveling to nearby Malaysia, waving goodbye to his bith land. We see the pain in his eyes, but also the steely determination to provide a better life for his child.
The elder previously interviewed has been granted pardon of responsibility and allowed to live within the village, provided he actively participates in the rebuilding of the community. Whilst the illegal loggers are allowed to stay within the village on the condition they help the army (and other environmental agencies) in their attempt to re-forest the land.
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