Son of the soil

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - Mum­ta­jbe­gum n Malaysian­jour­ney: hu­tan is sched­uled to air early next year on the National Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel.

Lead­ing a self-sus­tain­able life­style on his farm in Hawaii for the past 15 years en­sures ac­tor Ja­son Scott Lee is kept busy work­ing the land all year long. But once in a while, – when a wor­thy project turns up, Lee still takes time to get back into show­biz. in 2007, he took view­ers on a cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence on the Malaysian way of life in the first in­stal­ment of Malaysian Jour­ney. in that one-hour national ge­o­graphic doc­u­men­tary, he went hunt­ing with the peo­ple of Seme­lai in Pahang, lived with fish­er­men on the Langkawi ar­chi­pel­ago and shared good times with the Run­gus tribe in Sabah.

He fol­lowed that up with an­other doc­u­men­tary ti­tled Liv­ing Pono With Ja­son Scott

Lee, which show­cased his farm in Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The most re­cent gig that cap­tured his at­ten­tion was host­ing a sec­ond in­stal­ment of the doc­u­men­tary Malaysian Jour­ney, this time ti­tled Hu­tan. For this one-hour doc­u­men­tary – ten­ta­tively sched­uled for air­ing in the first quar­ter of 2012 – Lee vis­ited Malaysia’s rain­for­est re­gions in­clud­ing Kuala gan­dah ele­phant Sanc­tu­ary, Ta­man ne­gara national Park, Tasik Kenyir, gu­nung Mulu national Park and the Bornean Sun Bear Con­ser­va­tion Cen­tre.

When we met at Putrajaya in Septem­ber, he had just com­pleted a non-stop 15-day shoot to cover the above­men­tioned ar­eas.

“i had no idea about the rain­forests in Malaysia when i said yes,” says Lee. “all i knew was Bor­neo be­cause i have a friend in the film busi­ness from Malaysia (a dancer by the name of GTO), and i was like where is that? So i fi­nally got in­tro­duced to his coun­try.”

The first time he landed the host­ing gig, it hap­pened by chance. He was in Sin­ga­pore film­ing Dance Of The Dragon when a pro­ducer friend asked if he’d be in­ter­ested in do­ing it.

“i hadn’t been to Malaysia at that point and i was ex­cited to see a place i’ve never seen be­fore.”

The first doc­u­men­tary was a big hit not only with Malaysians but also in­ter­na­tion­ally. “They told me it did well and they wanted to do one more. So it started as a fluke of an op­por­tu­nity, now i have to talk to the press about it,” he ex­plains with a smile.

go­ing out in a small crew, every­thing is kept on a flex­i­ble sched­ule with no script.

“i re­ally try to re­serve my re­ac­tion on cam­era so it can be a nar­ra­tive on cam­era. i think that helps to bring the view­ers into what i am feel­ing while it’s hap­pen­ing. it’s a good for­mat for sto­ry­telling.”

in this jour­ney, Lee may not have learned any­thing that he can use on the farm ex­cept for the lit­tle trick of which tapi­oca leaf to eat from the Orang Batek. But he took note of the kind of tools the peo­ple he met in this trip use – learn­ing about the wood they use to make boats and how the re­sources they use are con­nected to the cul­ture of the peo­ple.

“When you main­tain the for­est, you main­tain the cul­ture. That’s the phi­los­o­phy we have where i come from ... take care of the land and the land will take care of you, not only your health and well-be­ing, but also the cul­ture.”

Lee eat­ing rice off a banana leaf dur­ing a lunch break while mak­ing Hu­tan.

Ja­son Scott Lee and a Sarawakian tat­too artist fea­tured in Malaysian­jour­ney for the National Ge­o­graphic chan­nel.

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