Tawai – A Voice from the Forest
The term “Tawai” originates from the nomadic communities of Borneo and describes the profound visceral connection between humanity and nature. In this documentary, Bruce Parry adopts his own nomadic lifestyle, recording his travels from Malaysia to the Amazon where he lives amongst those who choose to connect to the forest as opposed to the complementary Wi-Fi.
Parry originally met the Penan community of Ba’Puak in 2005 whilst filming the BBC series Tribe. In this documentary, however, he returns over 10 years later to see how the introduction of logging companies in their beloved forest has affected their peripatetic lifestyle. Upon arrival Parry learns that a foreign charity has built the Penan people “long houses” on the outskirts of the forest for them to live in, whilst their leafy abode collapses around them. These buildings are tragically and ironically made out of the very trees they rely on for survival, and inside there is even a television, which many of the Penan people have never seen before. It’s debatable whether the destruction of this community’s home is more damaging than exposing such a peaceful locality to the grapples of consumerism. The filmmaker remarks on how even a few of the tribe members wear plastic watches – a material that threatens pollution on a mass scale. However, not long after spending time in the “long houses” Parry and the Penan people pack their bags and venture back into the heart of the forest, weaving together banana leaves to provide familiar shelter, and scaling vertigo-inducing trees to pick untouched fruit.
It is whilst he sits amongst the remote forest tribes, eating tropical fruit and bathing in scintillating streams, that Parry has an existential crisis about modern humanity’s reliance on capitalism and shunning of the natural world. His initial documenting style of flippant humour about his own materialist lifestyle suddenly turns into almost a desperate plea about the earth’s demise. Parry’s sudden epiphany leaves him urging the consumer-junkie Western World to reevaluate their existence and start to recognise humankind as a unit as opposed to divided nations. He insists on the importance of empathy, a quality more important than education, money and material goods. A quality desperately required in the logging and oil companies that continue to turn the most cherished corners of the world into superfluous consumer goods.
Tawai – A Voice from the Forest is released nationwide on the 29th September 2017
Watch the trailer for Tawai – A Voice from the Forest here: