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Video This: Environmental Destruction in Southeast Asia


Originally published on the Infoactivism Micromag.

The rapid rate of development in Southeast Asia in recent years has led to rampant environmental degradation. From the widespread deforestation caused by the palm oil industry to horrific levels of urban pollution, to the consequences of climate change, the region faces an alarming outlook.

Alongside environmental NGOs and lobby groups, independent journalists, filmmakers, and grassroots communities have been increasingly using video and on/offline distribution to highlight these escalating issues.

At EngageMedia, during the past eight years, we’ve supported video production in the region and we’ve built an open-source software platform to collate, curate, and distribute these videos. Since early 2012, we’ve also integrated the open-source subtitling software widget, Amara, into our platform and we’ve built a team of volunteer subtitlers and translators who help make these videos available to an even wider audience.

Here, we present to you three noteworthy environmental videos from our Indonesian archives. These videos exemplify some of the rich mixes of video forms and contexts that we call Video for Change. They include a witnessing and documenting video, a grassroots social documentary made during a workshop, and a video made by a professional production house. We hope that these videos help demonstrate how the moving image is being used to present information and produce evidence, with the goal of supporting positive environmental action.

Ironic Survival (English)

Menambang di Piring Petani (Mining the Farmer’s Plate) (Indonesian)

Menambang di Piring Petani (Mining the Farmer’s Plate), is a film about the struggle of farmers in the village of Topogaro in Indonesia, to oppose a legal mining operation that is set to take over their field.

The video itself was a collaboration that began at Kickstart2010, an annual workshop pioneered by In-Docs, a well-known institution in Jakarta that promotes documentary video. For KickStart2010, a team from In-Docs traveled to Central Sulawesi and conducted a month-long video production training with local video-maker groups.

Menambang di Piring Petani, which runs for 15 minutes, took the young participants almost least three months to complete. In all, they produced four films that related to fundamental problems in Central Sulawesi such as education, poverty in coastal areas, farmers’ rights, and health.

After these short films were launched in Palu, the capital province of Central Sulawesi, they and their directors toured Central Sulawesi to ensure the videos could be seen by non-internet users and discussed in community settings.

Indigenous Peoples: Guardians of Indonesian Forest (English)

This expansive and well-produced documentary, by Gekko Studio, features Indigenous peoples from Papua to Sumatra, sharing about the importance of forests to them, and explaining how they have proven themselves to be their faithful guardians.

The problems faced by the various communities are grave and similar, such as large-scale oil palm plantations and mining concessions. The film also relates how they are fighting to save the biodiversity and the lives of the people in the over 15 million hectares of pristine customary forests that currently remain.

Through this production, the filmmakers urge “everyone to think clearly, especially the Indonesian government to place their complete trust in these communities to sustainably manage forests.”

EngageMedia brought this video to screen for the first time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the film was very well-received and spurred active comments from the audience, some of whom had previously never realised the full extent of environmental damage that was happening in their neighbouring country.

About the Author

Article by Seelan Palay from EngageMedia (@engagemedia) with contributions from Enrico Aditjondro and Yerry Niko Borang. EngageMedia are part of the Video for Change network.