The film was shot entirely on location within the remote mountain community of Hungduan in Ifugao (home to the Tuali peoples – one of the many indigenous groups in the Cordillera region of the Philippines) and explores the traditional knowledge and lifestyles of the Tuali peoples including their deep connection with, and reliance upon, their Muyong (clan-owned woodlands) and communal forests as an example of an indigenous community whose way of life is threatened by programmes such as REDD. The indigenous filmmakers behind this short film assert that market-based approaches to climate change are at odds with the traditional lifestyles and belief systems of indigenous peoples and that, through such programs, governments around the world will assert ownership over the forests inhabited by indigenous communities leading to landlessness and increased loss of bio-cultural diversity.
It was planned and created by 18 indigenous activists as a collaborative filmmaking exercise during a 2-week training program in participatory video facilitation. The trainees undertook all the conceptualisation, storyboarding and filming. They made all the editing decisions during a participatory ‘paper edit’ process. The footage was edited on location with all the trainees in attendance by the trainers, whilst they received editing training and pieced together the short films created by local women and youth during community placements.
‘Lives of the Forest’ is intended as a piece of video advocacy that will add to the rich tapestry of perspectives on how best to address the climate crisis. It does not purport to represent all indigenous communities; nor does it claim to be ‘balanced’ or ‘objective’. This is collaborative polemic filmmaking by those whose voices are rarely heard and are always under-represented.