Saturday, March 17, 2012

Through The Eyes Of A Dying Orangutan

Okay, this forest is in Malawi...but it kind of makes the point. It is all over!

Green: Death of the Forests

A visual essay about the impact of deforestation in Indonesia as seen through the eyes of a dying orangutan. (If the video does not load up within this Digest please click on this next link)

In 1991, after dropping out of medical school in Paris, I read Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne. Later I found a poorly-paid job in a production company for television commercials where I discovered digital special effects and went on to become a freelance post-production supervisor for feature films. In 2002, I was leading a comfortable life in Paris where I was never out of work, but I felt that something was wrong.

My mid-life crisis awoke a boyish desire to be out in the wild observing wildlife. I bought myself a camera (Sony PD 100) and left for Indonesia for three months for my first filmmaking experience. I was startled by the extent of the forest destruction I saw around me and decided to make films on conservation.

Once I returned home, I learnt how to use Final Cut Pro and edited my first film Tears of Wood, a 26-minute film on the Indonesian forest and its destruction from the perspective of a big, male orangutan. I continued working as a part-time freelance digital special effects supervisor and returned to Indonesia to make a 52-minute version of that film and called it Losing Tomorrow.

The problem however is that my personal films do not reach a wide audience because broadcasters showed no interest. So for my third production, Green, I decided to make it available for free downloads on the internet and make it copyright-free for public screening. Green went on to win awards; aired on about 10 television channels, downloaded daily and is being used as an educational tool in schools and universities. Green is proof that a low-budget home-made conservation film can reach a relatively wide audience. But of course, this doesn't always work out well.

I finance my own films by selling raw footage to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or production companies, selling Green to TV stations, inviting online donations, working as a cameraman and by giving talks in schools and workshops. When shooting, I travel alone or with a friend for sound recording. I carry a small camera (now a Canon HXA1) and a tripod. I then do the editing on my laptop and get friends to help me with the post-production. Luckily, the fact that I make films "for a good cause" with no commercial interests draws free professional help.

The story behind Green

When I set off to make Green, I knew I wanted to do another film on deforestation in Indonesia and the plight of the orangutans, but I had no specific story in mind. I had no script. In Indonesia, my friend (a guitar teacher who composes the music for my films) and I spent three weeks in national parks in Sumatra. I filmed everything I found beautiful in the forest, while he did the sound recordings.

After he went back home I continued alone to an orangutan refuge in central Kalimantan. There, in the clinic, I came across an orangutan lying on her back, in a bed with a towel as a blanket, a "Hello Kitty" pillow under her head and intravenous tubing taped to her left leg. The sight startled me, she looked



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