The Burning Season was about saving forests using the carbon trading mechanism,” says Producer/Director, Cathy Henkel. “That film played particularly well at high schools. The global school network ‘Microsoft Partners In Learning’ had an online poll that asked school kids ‘If you could do one thing to save the world what would that be?’ There were ten choices to choose from and their number one choice was to stop deforestation.”
The Head of Microsoft contacted Cathy and asked if she had a suggestion or proposal, and of course, she did! She created a relationship with Dr. Willie Smits (a solution based activist and specialist who had some wonderful ideas about how to save forests that focused on sugar palm). Henkel brought fifteen young people to Borneo to work with Dr. Smits and be actively involved in creating solutions with the local communities.
“Forests are being destroyed to plant palm oil plantation and palm oil serves the global food market and cosmetics,” Henkel explains. “So we the consumers are the prime cause of this deforestation by consuming this product ignorantly. The people on the ground who are most affected by it are the Dayak communities whose land is being taken away from them – often against their will. They fight, they resist, they are taken over and lose their land and livelihood.”
Filming for both these projects presented some serious demands on Henkel and her crew. “One of our boys nearly drowned in a raging river and we were always at risk at loosing life and limb and equipment. It was tough… you’re sleeping on the ground and you’re in really basic circumstances.” She said.
But Cathy came to appreciate the place, the people and their way of life: “The main village we stayed in was what I call a model village of sustainability, where they had their own hydro power system. All the food was excellent and locally grown and the people were so happy – they live in absolute balance with their natural world and I find that really inspiring.”
The Burning Season received the Rising Star Award 2010 at the Canada International Film Festival, an IF award in 2008 , and was nominated for a Gold Panda and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary on a Business Topic.
Lucy Rhoades, 28 August 2014