News / Asia

Indonesian Documentary Highlights Tribes Fighting Developers and Conservationists

Students work together at a unique school in a remote rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra
Students work together at a unique school in a remote rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra

Multimedia

Audio
Brian Padden

A new documentary about a school in a remote rainforest in Indonesia highlights how education is helping indigenous people to stand up for their rights. In addition to learning to read and write, the students also learn how to organize themselves against outsiders. The students are confronting both the developers who want to cut down their tribe’s forests and the conservationists opposed to tribal foraging, hunting and fishing practices.

The documentary Guru Rimba, which means jungle teacher, is a profile of the teacher and students in a unique school located in the rainforests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  

The film starts off showing the new teacher’s difficult journey to reach the remote classroom and it then shifts to focus on the lives of the children living in the school. From there it pivots again to show how the students are leading the efforts of the 3,000 Orang Rimba or jungle people in the Anak Dalam tribe to protect their land.

While the film struggles to maintain a coherent narrative, it features rarely seen footage of the children who attend the jungle school. It also provides a unique insight into how the modern world is threatening the indigenous people's traditional way of life.

Filmmaker Vivian Idris lived for weeks at a time in the mosquito-infested jungle and was given rare permission to film the students at the school.

“The most rewarding part, of course, also to be able to be part of their society," said Idris. "I mean, to sit with them, to sleep with them, to eat with them, you know.”

Idris says she was restricted for the most part from filming women. Girls are also not permitted to attend school which is located away from the villages. The boys who attend live at the school and study for weeks at a time.

The school was founded by anthropologist Butet Manurung over a decade ago. She says it took a year to overcome the suspicions of the indigenous people who saw no benefit to education and even believed pencils and pens to be taboo.

“They cannot even hold the pencil," she said. "They think it is an evil. Because every time they went to the market and selling their stuff, people in the market always have their pens, and then counting, and then always come up with the numbers they don't like.”

The indigenous people live in a designated national park area called Bukit 12. Manurung's educational outreach program was originally funded by Warsi, an environmental organization. Manurung eventually left Warsi because she did not agree with its conservationist curriculum advocating against any farming or even small land use projects in the park.

“I come with a different opinion,"she said. "I thought they need to know about life skills. They need to know what their right is and I want them to go for it by themselves.”

The Orang Rimba are caught between environmentalists and developers that are destroying Indonesian forests at the rate of 100 million hectares per year to make way mostly for lucrative palm oil farming.

Pengendum, a 20-year-old former student of the school, is now helping to organize the tribes to protect their way of life. He says the national park was made by the forest ministry without involving the jungle people and jungle people could be scattered because the rules do not involve us at all.

He says the school has given the Orang Rimba the academic skills and the confidence to stand up for their rights. And he hopes the documentary will tell their story to the world.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid