Bettina Barillas11 July 2019

A thousand hoofs – Greed and the Environment

Films

Southeast Asia is on the front lines of a new battle and its disadvantaged communities that are bearing the brunt of repercussions for years of resource mismanagement. It’s easy to only see the symptoms of the problem: rising tides, unpredictable weather, climate change. But, the true cause of the environmental chaos creeping into our lives is at its core a human problem, best described in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair:

It was the incarnation of blind and insensate Greed. It was a monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher--it was the spirit of Capitalism made flesh.

Devouring with a thousand mouths – greed is consuming our world before our very eyes. These films bring us stories from the front line of that battle. 

Orang Rimba: People of the Forest

Over the last three decades, the ancestral forests of the nomadic Orang Rimba has vanished – devoured by the unabated harvesting of palm oil from the rain forests in Indonesia. The small tribe lives in the midst of valuable and untapped land and its people are seen as primitive, pre-human. Their very lives have become a battle ground between corporate greed, a search for a better life, and the constant pull towards that which we call home. 

The short documentary provides a rare platform for members of the tribe to share their suffering as their lands, heritage, and identities are ripped away from them. Families are no longer permitted to stay in the places they have called home for generations and palm oil farmers ravage the land around them. The tribes are forced to join a world that is not only foreign to them, but antagonistic to their very existence with much of mainstream society describing them as sub-human. 

Narrated through interviews with tribal male elders, the film highlights their struggles, hopes, and dreams for the future as they weather a drastically changing landscape. The filmmakers put a human face on the impact of wide-scale production run amok. The People of the Forest are quickly losing that which gives them their name, the forest. 

Orang Rimba: People of the Forest

Lembusura

Pele, the goddess of volcanoes in Hawaiian folklore, is honored for her wild and unpredictable emotions. Her destructive creativity gives space for the building of character of the humans she tempts. In parallel, the eponymous mountain demon depicted in this film also offers the young filmmakers at work an opportunity to prove their own worth. As a rain of ash from a nearby active volcano descends on the young men’s town, they take an afternoon to film their rotund friend giving life to the local legend of Lembusura. The demon lives in the volcano and it is his anger that causes the ashes to fall. 

A lighthearted film—the costumed Lembusura asks for the video to be posted on youtube—the ten-minute documentary shows an afternoon in the life in the shadow of an active volcano and a small glimpse into some of the tales it has given birth to.

Lembusura

Deep Weather

The destructive power of an imbalanced nature is the unifying thread of two juxtaposed narrations on the ecological devastation wrought by our institutions of greed. 

Aerial snapshots of the ecological devastation of the Alberta crust are narrated in hushed tones, as if the truth is too terrible to be spoken out loud. The rhythmic lilt of the narration belies an almost unfathomable reality as the camera transverses scene after scene of the impact that the mining of water and oil have had in these ancient lands. 

A rural community in Bangladesh finds itself made an island in the midst of severe flooding and monsoons; the community has banded together to build walls of mud to protect their homes from the encroaching waterline. The seeming peacefulness of the waters gives way to the panic of scurried action along the makeshift breaker wall.

In the face of such destruction, what can one do? The film’s protagonists take different approaches. The disembodied narrator gives voice to stories not her own. The bleak Albertan oil fields stand witness to their decimation, a stoic silence. The multitudinous villagers bring their individual contributions of sacks of mud in plastic rice bags to protect their communal land from encroaching floods. The viewer is a passive participant and is left to wonder about their own response to the seismic earth events of our times.

Deep Weather

Amarta

This unique stage production tells the tale of a city whose beloved water goddess, Amarta, has been held captive by an evil business owner, known only as Boss, who profits off the suffering of the enslaved people of the village. This all changes one day when a young girl takes a stand and fights for the release of the water goddess and an end to the drought. 

Less a film and more a recording of a live performance, the Lichenstein-esque art direction adds a sense of drama and fantasy to the stage as the protagonist, a young girl, fights for the release of the water goddess and an end to the drought. The performance struggles with big questions surrounding the creation of prosperity and improving the lives of communities, but at the cost of abuse of environment and people. 

Amarta

About the author

Bettina is a communications consultant, whose work supports social change initiatives in health and clean energy in southern Africa and Latin America. Her work has seen her teaching photography courses to youth in villages across Botswana, writing content for high ranking officials working in HIV/AIDS programming, and building business case studies for clean energy investments across southern Africa. She is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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