Na­ture in need of nur­ture

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

TAWAI: A VOICE FROM THE FOR­EST Di­rected by Bruce Parry and Mark El­lam. Fea­tur­ing Bruce Parry, In­grid Lewis, Jerome Lewis, Iain McGilchrist, Ma­hant Ja­gadesh Giri. Club, limited re­lease, 101mins

Were it not for the fear­less­ness with which he tra­verses re­mote jun­gle ter­rain, you might never guess that eco-film­maker Bruce Parry was a former Bri­tish Royal Ma­rine. Fans of the film­maker’s doc­u­men­tary TV se­ries Tribe – in which Parry

at­tempted to learn the rit­u­als and cus­toms of iso­lated peo­ples in the Hi­malayas, Africa, Venezuela, Mon­go­lia, and be­yond – will surely be de­lighted by Tawai: A Voice from the For­est.

The film’s co-di­rec­tor first met the Pe­nan peo­ple of Ba’ Puak in the Bor­neo rain­for­est while mak­ing the award-win­ning final episode of his BBC se­ries. Here, he reteams with the Pe­nan, one of the last hunter-gath­erer so­ci­eties on Earth, to con­sider the trick­yto-trans­late concept that gives the film its name. The joy of this re­union is tem­pered by the in­creas­ing en­croach­ment of log­ging com­pa­nies on the land: multi­na­tion­als seek­ing palm oil, in par­tic­u­lar. The Pe­nan are guided by the twin prac­tices of

mo­long, which means never tak­ing more than nec­es­sary, and tawai, which in­di­cates a sense of one­ness with na­ture.

Iron­i­cally, their eco­log­i­cally har­mo­nious life­style may en­sure their evic­tion: hav­ing left no dis­cernible im­print on their an­ces­tral lands, these mostly no­madic peo­ple can­not demon­strate that they have lived in the rain­for­est for gen­er­a­tions.

Parry care­fully teases out ideas about liv­ing in har­mony

with na­ture and the wis­dom that might be gleaned from life­styles that many Malaysian au­thor­i­ties would dis­miss as an­ti­quated. “Trav­el­ling by car or air­plane is not some­thing we can guar­an­tee for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” one local ex­plains flatly. “So I do not want it.”

These sen­ti­ments are echoed across the globe by the Pi­rahã, an in­dige­nous peo­ple of the Ama­zon Rain­for­est. Parry also con­sults with psy­chol­o­gist Iain McGilchrist on the par­al­lel func­tions of the brain’s left and right hemi­spheres; with an­thro­pol­o­gists Jerome and In­grid Lewis on the rise of con­sumerism; and with the fam­ily of Ma­hant Ja­gadesh Giri on the eve of the Kumbh Mela, the fes­ti­val that sees mil­lions of In­di­ans wade into the Ganges.

The new age friendly in­sights aren’t quite as ar­rest­ing as DOP Mark El­lam’s gor­geous far-flung tableaux. Still, Parry makes for an ami­able trav­el­ling com­pan­ion. Will his un­abashed tree-hug­ging trans­late at a mo­ment of peak cli­mat­e­change de­nial? We do hope so.

Bruce Parry

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.