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Sitting on giant blue plastic tarps to protect from the ever-damp ground, I was among about 100 villagers in the chief's front yard, gathered to watch two new short films about to be projected onto a giant white sheet strung across the front porch. The films, about the relationship between human and environmental health and how the villages could benefit by taking care of both, starred some of their neighbors.
I was really nervous. I had produced and directed these films.
I’d been through plenty of nerve-racking screenings for the many mini-documentaries I'd produced over the years at the ABC and NBC Newsmagazines PrimeTime Live, 20/20, and Dateline. But never had I made a film in Bahasa Indonesia (a language I don't speak) for a mix of cultures (I tried my best to sensitively include) in the middle of Borneo (of all places I’d never expected to be!).
Would folks laugh in the right places? Nod in agreement in others? Come away understanding the key ideas we hoped would inspire them to help save this rain forest that was being destroyed by logging?
As the sun set, the village chief gave a brief introduction and the films began. Of course, I knew the films by heart so I watched the residents watch. Then it happened. They laughed. They nodded in agreement. And most importantly, they got it.
ASRI has been remarkably successful in virtually eliminating illegal timber harvesting in this forest by providing affordable, high-quality health care, alternatives to earning sustainable incomes, and increasing harvests – all by preserving the rain forest. Four years later, these films remain popular.
I'd like to believe the films our small U.S. team created help underscore and spread ASRI’s work to the communities charged with saving the lungs of the world. It's why I’m honored to be asked back to create two more films - about safe childbirth and safe spacing of births, and another about smoking which continues to plague Indonesia, causing deadly illnesses and deadly forest fires. (We'll also update a prior film with advancements in Tuberculosis treatment.)
My deep thanks to the Farvue Family Foundation, the first to offer funding for this endeavor. I hope others will follow and support this educational work. Our team gives up their own work to do this at greatly reduced fees, with most of the funds going to equipment, travel, ground costs (and plenty of vaccines.) The gibbons, the voice of the rainforest, call us to return.
Susan and her team hope to return to Sukadana in early 2017 to collect footage for these videos. We are so grateful for her time and skills, as well as Farvue's contribution, which helps make this project possible! If you are interested in making a gift toward the remaining $60,000 needed to make this project happen, you can donate here.