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Long Sa'an documentary film about Kenyak Dayak lands and traditions

Long Sa’an: Film Dives Into Dayak Life in the Deep Forest of Borneo

by Susi, 20 October 2014

Long SaanThe Dayak people of Borneo are keepers of the forest, home of their ancestors, and the source of their life and cultures. Says David Metcalfe, an American photographer and writer, “The Dayaks call it Tala Olen, meaning ‘forbidden forest’. They have strict cultural rules about cutting down the trees in the forest or damaging it in any way. The Dayaks are spiritually connected to the forest, the rivers and the land.”

David is passionate about the indigenous tribal cultures of Indonesia and the lands where some of them still thrive. He and a group of incredibly diverse friends recently joined Philius, a Kenyah Dayak elder, on a journey of the heart, into the heart of the forest. The experience of this journey is the subject of a magical documentary now in final stages of production, Long Sa’an.

I was alerted to this unique documentary film project by my friend Robi, front man of one of Indonesia’s best indie bands, Navicula. Robi dove directly into Dayak life as he followed Philius on the journey. Watch the trailer and you’ll see that he can now perform a respectable rendition of the Dayak hornbill dance. He and his fellow band members deepened their commitment to saving Indonesia’s forests two years ago when they joined members of Greenpeace Indonesia’s forest patrol on a dirt-bike expedition deep into the heart of Borneo. What they saw there shocked them. Vast tracts of forest, including lands that are the birthright of native communities, are being cleared for corporate cash crops at an alarming rate. The destruction is brutal and most of it’s illegal.


In Long Sa’an we come to understand the forests from the point of view of the Kenyah Dayak people, from the inside. And also from the point of view of the group of outsiders who followed Philius on his journey home: David; Robi; Kevin Locke, a Native American of the Lakota People; Martin Holland of The Heart of Borneo project; Australian adventurers Rex Unwin, Jerome Brookes-Metcalf, James Greenshields, Martin Holland; and perhaps most significantly of all, the highly-gifted young Indonesian filmmaker, Erik EST, who has made award-winning videos with Navicula and other Indonesian indie bands.

The team needs our support to help them finish, distribute, and promote the film. They’ve set up a funding page here, where you can contribute and become a co-producer of Long Sa’an yourself. You can also email David ( about supporting and publicizing this historic documentary film project. Spread the word. Save the forests. Enjoy the film. Watch the trailer.

Click here and go direct to the Fundrazr Campaign for Long Sa’an: The Journey Home.

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