RISE: Byron Bay hosts activist film, music and cultural exchange

Byron Shire will play host to an important event that highlights the fight to protect the forests and Indigenous Dayak cultures of Borneo.

Time is running out for these ancient forests, which are very vulnerable to exploitation and not well protected. And the event, which takes place Thursday 19 March includes a screening of award-winning documentary Rise of the Eco Warriors as well as live performances by Dayak dancers and musicians.

Mark White, one of the producers of the documentary said it was the first time the film had screened at Byron Community Centre and that the local response to previous screenings had been good.

“We’ve never done this type of event before,” he said. “We think it’s really cool and innovative and we’re just reaching out to everyone we can who has an interest in rainforest and orangutans and Indigenous struggles protecting forest land and habitat in Australia.”

Mark said the event will be the first time anything significant has happened between the Dayak people of Borneo and Indigenous Australians.

“We have Indigenous people coming from Ipswich and Stradbroke Island,” he said, as well as a Welcome to Country.

The program of events includes internationally acclaimed World Fusion ensemble Visions of a Nomad as well as Dayak dancers and musicians Siti and Yadi and a composer and musician from the Dayak Kenyah tribe of North Borneo, Uyan Moris.

Robi Navicula, one of Indonesia’s rock stars and lead singer from the band Navikula, will also be performing remotely, via Skype.

“We were trying to have him here in person,” Mark said. “But the visa didn’t work out in time.”

The man who makes Navikula’s music videos which often focus on the environment and corruption will also be in attendance. Erick Est is an Indonesian film-maker and an activist. Mark says he’ll be there to offer a sneak peak of a documentary from Borneo he’s been working on.

Mark talks about some of Erick’s work excitedly. “In the Bay of Denpasar they’re trying to fight a big resort that’s going to wipe out 1500 hectares of mangrove forest,” he said. “

“If you know anything about Indonesia, you’ll know they don’t usually protect. But this time they’ve had big protests including flotillas, billboards, t-shirts. Erick is the mastermind of the media campaign. It’s a big deal for Indonesia,” Mark said.

The film Rise of the Eco Warriors is now being produced as a TV series. “We’re in production right now,” Mark tells me. “We don’t know when it will go to air in Australia.”

Watch trailer here:

“The feature documentary was recently broadcast on Compost TV, free to air. It went across all of Indonesia,” Mark said. He thinks it’s the first time an Australian documentary has ever done that.

No such luck in Australia, though. Not one TV station has broadcast the documentary which won the People’s Award at the Bali Film Festival and, as Mark humbly says: “lots of little film awards around the place.”

“We were also nominated for best documentary by the Screen Producers Association,” Mark said. “It’s been broadcast in Hungary. But so far no Australian TV channels have bought the film.”

Mark White and one of the warriors featured in Rise of the Eco Warriors, Kodi Twiner will be in attendance for Q+A after the event.

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The screening of Rise of the Eco Warriors and associated cultural activities takes place on Thursday 19 March from 6.30pm at Byron Community Centre.

Byron Community Centre is located at 69 Jonson Street.

Get tickets here.

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