When bulldozers came to the ancestral lands of the Iban, in the Sarawak region of Malaysia, Segan Anak Degon stood up to defend his land. Today Segan is the the only person out of 101 families whose land remains unaffected by the oil palm that swept through the region.What Rainforest? is a 36-minute documentary about his struggle.
“What Rainforest? has all the necessary ingredients for a thrilling Hollywood blockbuster” describes an independent reviewer: “A stoic hero and his long-suffering wife. Ruthless land-grabbing corporations. A plot that wove a tale of David minus his slingshot versus Goliath. Of conviction of strength in the face of greed, gangsters and cockamamie policies. And also a credible supporting cast and beautiful long-range and wide angle shots of one of the world’s oldest rainforests.
“But What Rainforest? neither thrilled nor entertained.
“Of course, the co-producers of this 36-minute documentary – Hilary Chiew and chi too – never intended for it to. Instead, they succeeded all too well in making you burn as you watch the outright trampling of basic rights of the indigenous Iban folk and their ancestral lands.
“When oil palm barons began encroaching onto their native customary rights (NCR) land with claims of buyovers sanctioned by the government, the families in Kampung Lebur, near Kuching in Sarawak, were devastated.
“One man stood his ground. Segan anak Degon was the only one of 101 families who managed to hold off an oil palm plantation from replacing his ancestral patch of forest which included his paddy field and fruit trees planted by his forefathers.
“Like his fellow villagers, the forest was the sole source of livelihood for Segan and his wife. But unlike his fellow villagers, Segan fought … and won. And this is his story.
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