The last indigenous people of Mentawai, a small group of islands south-west of Sumatra, are fighting with creative resistance to preserve their ancient culture and the rainforest where they live.
After 30 years of democratization in Indonesia, Jakarta is now enforcing deforestation in Mentawai. In collaboration with investigative journalist, Febrianti, and indigenous foundations, our film portrays this indigenous culture, showing its history and resistance up to the most recent geopolitical developments in Indonesia’s growing environmental degradation. Now logging companies threaten the fragile eco-system of the islands.
The cinematic and compassionate camera conveys an intimate and sensual experience of indigenous life on Mentawai with its beauty and vulnerability. Three shamans are the main characters in the film, hunter-gatherers in a culture that predates even traditions of weaving or pottery, but full of archaic traditions with their own complexity.
Rare historic footage and archive materials open up the decades of oppression the tribes have faced – and we also see their resilience, with the younger generation joining the main characters in their fight for the preservation of their environment and culture.
The project was an indigenous initiative. Martison Siritoitet from the Indigenous Foundation and Suku Mentawai (http:/sukumentawai.org) invited director Joo Peter to Mentawai, starting a long collaboration that included the Mentawai Indigenous Education Program (http://IEFprograms.org).
Joo Peter (1966, Germany) studied film at the Film University HFF Berline Bebelsberg and the Art Academy, Stuttgart. He is an author, filmmaker and lecturer.
The initiator and collaborator for this film, Martison Siritoitet (1998, Mentawat, Indonesia), works for the Yayasan Pendidikan Budaya Mentawai.
I’m grateful to be supported both by the indigenous community and the producer Ilona Grundmann, who worked with Werner Herzhog. As a working class kid, it took me a long time to get my hands on a decent camera to follow my passion. After travelling in Asia for many years, first as an author and photographer, then as a filmmaker, this is my first documentary feature, after a series of short films.