The Freedom Film Festival has just concluded with a screening a in Penang. So farm the response to the film has been most encouraging with many still recovering from the shock of what they have learnt through the film. With the festival over, we will very soon upload the film on the internet for everyone to watch.
The film was also reviewed by The New Strait Times. The following story was published on November 14th 2008 in the features section.
by LAVIINIA DHANAGUNA
At the recent FreedomFilmFest 2008 screenings, LAVIINIA DHANAGUNAN discovers scenes of ironical situations
THE sound of a whirring chainsaw hitting the hard bark of a tree in our tropical rainforests is my current ghost.
I just can’t seem to get rid of it ever since I saw the documentary, What Rainforest?, co-produced by activist Chi Too.
The last 10 minutes or so of the film, which was shown at last week’s FreedomFilmFest 2008 by Pusat Komas (Community Communication Centre), are powerful.
With every whir of the chainsaw came the testimony of an indigenous person talking about the value of the forest in their daily life.
What Rainforest? is short but gets you to sit up and reconsider your knowledge database.
Chi Too, who insists on a face-to-face interview, says the film is an extension of his last offering on the Penan people about the issue of illegal logging.
“I just want to inform as many people as I can about this issue. It is not the first time that logging has affected the indigenous people of East Malaysia.
“It is an issue I am passionate about because many people are losing out on their ancestral land, land that has been preserved by their families for generations and also losing out their basic rights in the process.
“There is a need to look beyond the romanticised concept of being environmentally conscious (doing things like recycling, saving water, etc) and looking at the core issue of the problem and trying to eliminate it.”
He says he was encouraged by the level of interest conveyed by the audience at the screening.
I have been exposed to the fight of native people in the quest to regain what is technically theirs, in Australia, as a student.
I admire the conviction and strength of the native people of Australia in rectifying what went wrong. After What Rainforest?, that same conviction and strength is present in our own native people.
The film opens with the story of Segan anak Degon, an Iban from Kampung Lebor, Sarawak who is fighting to sustain his birthright against the takeover of his land by a company involved in oil palm plantations.
Segan and his family depend on the forest, like many other indigenous people, for income and food.
His effort to protect his birthright seems to have borrowed scenes from an action-packed film, for in his struggle, Segan endures not just rain and shine but also threats by gangsters.
Lots of wide angle shots were used in the documentary, allowing for the beauty of the rainforest to be seen.
But the impact of the film really came home with the presence of Segan and his wife, Lumat anak Labong, at the screening at the Central Market.
The upshot of his fight to keep his land is that of the 101 families in his village, his is the only piece of land left untouched.
Segan is a person who has gained strength and determination in his conviction and has no qualms about sharing his stories. He says he found it amusing that the authorities encourage locals to continue their efforts in weaving and making baskets to sustain the local craft industry but still allowed plantation companies to take over the land which reduces the raw material needed to make the craft.
Meeting Segan straight off the screen, with a chainsaw whirring in my brain, you can’t help realising the irony of life today.
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