On Arte, five “Guardians of the forest” show the way to preserve the lungs of the planet

Chief Mundiya Kepanga, guardian of the forest of Papua New Guinea in the documentary “Guardians of the forest: Papua New Guinea, time for solutions” (2023), by Marc Dozier.


Essential for maintaining biodiversity and carbon sinks essential for climate balance, forests cover 31% of the earth’s surface (source United Nations). But they are in danger. Between 1990 and 2020, 420 million hectares of forests have disappearedvictims of deforestation.

Primary forests and the people they support are the first to be affected. They are also the first to defend them. Broadcast during COP28, the series Guardians of the forest chose to focus on five of their representatives, who dedicate their lives to protecting the woods where they were born. Including on television sets and even in the European Parliament.

“The media must come and see this deforestation front. People who cut down the forest don’t like being filmed. People got killed for this. » In Brazil, Benki Piyako is angry. Metis, representative of the Ashaninka people, he opposes the construction of a road in the Amazon forest; he denounces the fires, the “Bolsonaro’s law” (Brazilian president of 1er January 2019 to 1er January 2023).

He attacks gold miners, Crossroads (which sources meat from “critical zones”), to Westerners in general – “White people just kill and kill.” Before exposing his plan to buy back the land to reforest them and mentioning (too briefly) his trips to Unesco, Monaco or Brussels to plead his cause.

The red taiga, preserved area

In Canada, the tone of Twyla, an activist in the Land Guardians network of the Dene Native American people and a “solo” mother of four children, is just as vindictive in pointing out the damage caused by oil and mining companies to the boreal forest – even if she herself travels by snowmobile and 4 × 4.

Twyla, Land Keepers activist from the Dene community in Canada, in the documentary “Forest Keepers: Canada, the Path of the Ancestors” (2023), by Mark Magidson.

After a long sequence on the Europeans who decimated the natives in the 15the century, she introduces us to Franck and John, two smiling old brothers, who enabled the clification of a million hectares in “protected indigenous era”. There, grizzly bears and caribou are monitored by two hundred cameras. Hence the magical images, which we prefer to those showing how to skin and grill a muskrat… Twyla in fact advocates a return to the sacrifices practiced by her ancestors.

In Mongolia, Tumursukh Jal takes the delicate opposite step. Director of the preserved area (since 2014) of the red taiga, he has the heavy responsibility of making nomadic populations understand that they must abandon their ancestral hunter-gatherer practices, harmful to biodiversity, and that we must no longer kill lynx, wolves and bears, but save them.

As for The Mongolian Horsemanextraordinary film by the same director, Hamid Sardar will follow Tumursukh Jal throughout the seasons, from village to village. His documentary, broadcast in a long version, opens the series. It was also warmly applauded in Brussels, where it was screened on October 11 at the European Parliament.

Changing mentalities

Tirelessly, whether in an international forum or in a yurt in the steppe, Tumursukh Jal dialogues to change mentalities. Smiling but firm, including when he captures three cubs in a village initially hostile to the preservation of plantigrades. He will feed them for several weeks, before releasing them, far, far away from humans.

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Just as positive, Time for solutions highlights initiatives that should enable Papua New Guinea to become a model of sustainable forest management. This is the mission set by the old Papuan chief Mundiya Kepanga – a figure now known throughout the world.

The camera accompanies this man, always ready to be surprised and to learn from others, in his travels, notably during his memorable speech at UNESCO for COP21. He alternates humor – “Like white men, I learned to cite serious figures” – and gravity: “When I die, I will become a bird”he says to his grandchildren, one of whom starts to cry.

Chief Mambongo, in Gabon, in the documentary “Guardians of the forest: Gabon, the forest that heals” (2023), by Jérôme Bouvier.

We find this duty of transmission in Gabon, where the shaman Mambongo is worried about the traffic of poachers and the timber trade. “We don’t criticize anyone. For the moment, it is more the Chinese and Malaysians who are devastating Gabonese forests. » He therefore undertook to reconnect the link between humans and nature, by bringing the bwiti ceremony up to date, the preparations of which the viewer will follow.

In 2002, Gabon created thirteen national parks. Initially rejected by the populations, they have since understood the usefulness of no longer killing the gorillas and of defending the forest. “Since we are all going to die, we must connect with the forest: the woods are the spirits who have left”Mambongo philosopher.

Guardians of the forest, documentary series (Fr.-Germany, 2023, 5 × 53 min). Mongolia, the taiga sanctuaryby Hamid Sardar; Brazil, replanting the Amazonby Luc Marescot; Canada, the path of the ancestorsby Mark Magidson; Gabon, the forest that healsby Jérôme Bouvier; Papua New Guinea, time for solutions, by Marc Dozier. On Arte.tvuntil May 20, 2027.

Catherine Pacary

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