Missing activist Bruno Manser’s life goes on big screen

A scene from the Swiss film Bruno Manser – Voice of the Rainforest, which will have its world premier on Sept 26.

PETALING JAYA: A film about missing Swiss environmental activist Bruno Manser will open the 15th Zurich Film Festival later this month in honour of the man who had campaigned to preserve the Penan way of life against the logging industry in Sarawak.

According to the Zurich Film Festival website, “Bruno Manser – Die Stimme Des Regenwaldes” (Bruno Manser – Voice of the Rainforest) is about the life of Manser, who has been described as the “Swiss Gandhi”, and how he devoted his life to helping the Penan tribe of Sarawak.

Two Penan involved, Elizabeth Ballang and Nick Kelesau, will travel to Zurich for the opening, according to a statement by the festival organisers. The film will have its gala premiere on Sept 26.

A large cast of Penan extras were used in the film, communicating in their own language. The film is said to be the largest Swiss production in recent years with a budget of 6 million Swiss francs.

It is directed by Niklaus Hilber who calls it his “most ambitious and most important film project” of his career.

“Almost 20 years after his disappearance, Bruno Manser’s story is more relevant now than ever before.

“As the Amazon burns to the ground and globalisation and its insatiable appetite for natural resources makes protecting forests all the more urgent, we remember a man who embodied the fight against deforestation of the rainforests throughout the 80s and 90s,” he was quoted as saying.

Manser, who was one of the founders of the Bruno Manser Fund, lived amongst the Penan people in Sarawak from 1984 to 1990.

He helped the community put up a resistance against the loggers.

According to Wikipedia, the Malaysian government had previously declared Manser “persona non grata” in the country with Dr Mahathir Mohamad accusing him of disrupting law and order, during his first stint as the prime minister.

Manser has been missing and is presumed dead, since his last journey to Sarawak in May 2000.