If Tarzan Had a Camera This is the Film He’d Make!
INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER plunges you into the Sibun River; a turquoise jungle river born in the Maya Mountains of Belize. We are swept on a journey through caves adorned with sparkling stalactites, where pottery and bones from an ancient civilization are hidden. We flow out again into sunlit pools festooned with vines where lizards run on water and flamboyant fish dart about.
What is It?
There are 2 aspects to this project. One is INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER, the nature documentary film which follows the animals’ stories from their POV. And there is also The MAKING OF INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER, a video journal chronicling the filmmakers’ journey as we try a new technique to invite the animals to participate in the film. This “new” technique is really an “old” technique employed by our indigenous ancestors and still practiced by indigenous peoples today – telepathic communication. Will telepathy work for us? Stay tuned to The MAKING OF which could be released digitally in short segments online to engage audiences during the production process.
INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER explores the ecology of a jungle river watershed. Shot and narrated from the point of view of the river and its inhabitants it is an intimate exploration from inside the river community with lots of underwater footage. River is the main character, with many different aspects from frothing whitewater to limpid sun drenched pools. River speaks with various voices sometimes singing a cave song of purest liquid notes coalescing into a susurrating symphony, while at other times roaring like a jaguar with joyous energy unleashed by gravity.
Immersed in the flow of water, we experience the lives of plants and animals nourished by the river. Their interactions and relationships become like the antics of our neighbours. We feel we are ‘whiskering’ the river bottom with catfish, or perched on a tree limb like a Toucan, or peering out from the weeds like another colourful swordfish. We experience what life is like for unique species found only in riverine caves.
Why is this Project Important?
Jungle rivers are fabulously rich repositories of biodiversity but they are being threatened by deforestation, industrial agriculture, pesticides, dams and a host of other impacts. The Sibun River Watershed is one of Belize’s most intact river systems, however it is being impacted more and more each year. We envision this project being a catalyst for inspiring local home-grown conservation action. Even in early stages of planning there is considerable energy being generated in Belize by INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER, especially because of its usefulness for community outreach and education. The project has already generated interest in reviving the dormant Sibun Watershed Association, a community conservation organization of the villages in the watershed.
Who Is it For?
We are pitching the project to broadcasters in North America. The INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER film will also inspire and educate everyone from Belizean citizens to tourists who are just dropping by for a quick visit. It can be shown to audiences in nature centers, museums, schools, communities, and on cruise ships. The film will also be useful for university tropical ecology studies in Belize and North America.
If we attract enough funding we can also design an educational interactive website for use by University of Belize’s Online Distance Learning program which serves a global student population. We would also design this website for accessibility to the public.
How Will we Do This?
We invite the watershed’s animal and plant residents to participate in the film by attempting to communicate with them telepathically. We will build the film’s narrative(s) from their communications and tell the story from their unique points of view. By documenting this communication process in a MAKING OF INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER companion feature we hope to inspire others to learn from our successes and failures and to try telepathic communication with non-human beings in their own work.
Who is the Production Team?
Co-Produced by the Belizean Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society (T.R.E.E.S) and the Canadian Otter Be Good Productions (OBG), the combination of a scientist/filmmaker team will ensure scientifically accurate and entertaining content. Dr. Ed Boles, an Aquatic Ecologist from Belize is the main Scientific Advisor for the project. Local conservation perspectives will inform all aspects of the project.
T.R.E.E.S is a Belizean not-for-profit organization that operates a biological research and education center in the Maya Mountains of Belize. The T.R.E.E.S Hosting Center is managed by two research biologists, Vanessa Kilburn and Mathieu Charette. It offers fully featured facilities for students and professors on faculty-led biology field courses, graduate students and researchers, and eco-travelers concerned in a unified vision of environmental and cultural conservation in Belize. T.R.E.E.S is dedicated to conserving the natural and cultural heritage of Belize through education, income-generating conservation-based community projects, capacity building, and local and international networking. T.R.E.E.S supports local sustainable community development by providing the education, tools, and the resources needed for communities to start and maintain alternative sustainable livelihoods and by providing on-the-job professional skills training to underprivileged rural Belizeans. T.R.E.E.S encourages the creation of a social, environmental, and cultural network by promoting partnerships within Belize and internationally (www.treesociety.org).
Otter Be Good Productions is a Canadian media production company that immerses the viewer in the natural world through evocative images, location sound, and intimate playful narration. Underwater imagery is our specialty. There are no manipulated behaviours with captive or trained animals in our productions which are so common in many Natural History documentaries. This is real life drama filmed in cooperation and communication with nature’s ecological communities. A special feature of our films is what we call “Amphibiography”; a view of life above the water and under the water at the same time. These Over/Unders will add an extra dimension to the stories unfolding in and on the river, without viewers having to wear 3D glasses. We will attempt to follow aquatic critters becoming one of them for a while, filming from the animals’ point-of-view with the camera moving as they move.
Why Otter Be Good Productions?
Because we create amphibious content OBG is perfectly suited for this INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER project which explores life around the river, on the river and in the river. Another reason for our suitability is that the OBG crew lives in the field for extended periods of time, not just a few weeks. We are often in the right place at the right time to witness amazing interactions between local flora and fauna. Does that make a difference? It sure does, as evidenced by behaviours that we’ve captured, which haven’t been filmed previously. Some haven’t even been seen before!
OBG works in cooperation with the local human community. Often we are invited to create inspirational educational media for use by local stewardship groups, schools, and tourism promotions. Conservation initiatives by the community are often featured in our projects, as are interviews with residents, researchers, local business people and others.
Working with the local community means making media that will benefit that community. The INSIDE JUNGLE RIVER film will speak to the Belizean communities in Creole, English and Spanish by including a narration in each language.
When Will This Happen?
We’ll be filming over a period of 2 years; 2015 – 2016. Networking, Research and Development is already underway. Our first exploratory field research and filming trip in Belize is planned for February through April 2015.
Terry and Jude, Otter Be Good Producers