Having created such memorable BBC series as Tribe, Amazon and Arctic, what is the message behind your beautiful and poignant film ‘Tawai’?
I wanted to gently invite us to look at ourselves – how we are in relationship with one another and in relationship with the planet. By visiting incredible people with lives very different to our own, the film asks us to contemplate the journey we have been on to get to where we are now, and how it may or may not be serving us. It’s a film about the quest to reconnect to ourselves, to our communities and to nature.
You’ve had the chance to visit many places and people. What do you think is the key to a thriving and happy community?
There are a very few groups left on the planet who have no leaders, but this was our original way. They are sharing communities in the truest sense and reflect how society must have been for the vast majority of the time we’ve been on the planet. This shared ownership is about feeling a part of things, being equals in the endeavour. Everyone feels empowered because they have a stake in it, an equal say and an equal share of the dividends. This sort of egalitarianism feels rare now because we are susceptible to being dominated by a more powerful form of Western lifestyle.
What do you think we can learn from people and groups you have connected with?
We try to connect people emotionally with the impacts and changes happening around us and how we all need to share concern and responsibility. There is a strong implicit message to look at ourselves as much more a part of nature rather than superior and separate from it.
Tawai is the word the Penan tribe of Borneo use to describe their inner feeling of connection to nature. Why did you choose to focus on this?
There are a lot of vulnerable tribal communities, but I came to realise that the nomadic Penan tribe – a group I visited in my first BBC series – represents a culture quite unlike any other I’ve experienced because they live nomadic hunter-gatherers and as if untouched by the agricultural revolution. I wanted to go back for this film and see them again to explore what might have changed.
Do you think we are measuring our success and happiness in the right way?
As one of the tribespeople I speak to in the film says: “When you have money, how much money makes you feel rich? We have no money but we feel incredibly rich, we have everything we need here.” It makes me ask how we evaluate ‘abundance’ in our lives – instead of material wealth, can’t it be connection to community, and laughter, and being looked after when you get older and having enough food on the table? Everything else is a massive accumulation that doesn’t necessarily serve us at all.
You have a Triodos Current Account. What is it that draws you to ethical banking?
When people ask me ‘what can I do?’ – for me it’s simple. There’s one thing we can all do tomorrow that makes a massive difference and that is put our money in an ethical bank. Your money is working towards all sort of things in the background – the savings in your account, your pension scheme. It’s all a massive part of how we are affecting the planet and it costs you nothing to move your money so that it makes a positive rather than a negative impact. This is a no brainer and it should be screamed from the rooftops that we should all be banking ethically!
‘TAWAI – A VOICE FROM THE FOREST’ IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH ONLINE AT: WWW.TAWAI.EARTH