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The devastating effects of the palm oil interview - Green the film by Patrick Rouxel

Green is the emotional journey of an Indonesian Orangutan, Green, and her last days after suffering as a victim of deforestation and resource exploitation, specifically the palm oil industry. It has no narration in order to make it accessible to those of all nationalities.

Image courtesy of www.greenthefilm.com

Filmmaker Patrick Rouxel created the film in order to help try and protect the rainforest and the species that inhabit it. In the last 50 years more than 112 million hectres of Indonesian forest have been lost and orangutan population numbers have dramatically and significantly dropped. Rouxel, among others such as the WWF, are hoping that raising awareness of the damaging industry practices like Palm Oil that occur will help put pressure on those involved to find alternative solutions.

Image courtesy of www.greenthefilm.com

Conservation organisations such as Frontier work within the Indonesian jungle to research and monitor wild orangutans. Volunteers are vital in keeping projects running and to ensure the conservation of endangered forest wildlife such as Orangutans, Slow Loris, Sun Bears and Clouded Leopards remain a priority for the international community.

Learn more about Frontier’s conservation projects in Indonesia.


GREEN from Green Docs on Vimeo.

Into the Wild: John Blewitt writes in his essay response to Green, that you are accusing not only the companies who plunder the forests, but the consumers who buy and use these products with little thought to where they came from - is this a message you wished to convey?

Patrick Rouxel: I wouldn't say that I'm accusing the consumers, but rather showing them what lies behind certain products which they may be consuming daily. The hope is that they will react positively by this eye opening experience and chose to be more careful as to what they consume in the future.

We all tend to consume things without knowing or even wanting to know what lies behind the stuff we consume. Whether it be buying goods or food, we tend to privilege the satisfaction of our desire over anything else. Hopefully, Green can help challenge this behavior for a more responsible one.  

Into the Wild: Was there a specific moment or event that inspired you to make Green?

Patrick Rouxel: I went to Indonesia to film the forest, the deforestation and the plight of the orangutans without knowing precisely what type of documentary I would end up doing. During the shoot, I accompanied a local vet to rescue a young orangutan held captive in a palm oil plantation. This young female was is a very bad state and died in my arms a few hours later. I was overwhelmed and shattered by the death of this innocent victim. It is this emotion which I then felt I should try to convey in Green. Hoping the viewer would feel what I felt: feel the sorrow and the shame of being, in part, accountable for this loss.

Into the Wild: In the film, you get very close to wild Orangutans and other animals. Was it hard to locate, and get so close to these animals?

Patrick Rouxel: The wild orangutans we see in Green are habituated orangutans, so it was easy to get close. I don't have the means or equipment to film the truly wild animals who keep a long and safe distance from humans. By respect, I also prefer to leave them alone. So I usually film those animals that are used to human presence and will hang around the lodge of the national parks I visit.

Into the Wild: The lack of soundtrack or narration is a powerful tool. Was this to enhance the moments when songs are played over the images of consumer goods, or to immerse the viewer in the forest so that the destruction can fully be felt?

Patrick Rouxel: The story of the film is "told" from the point of view of a dying female orangutan. I didn't like the idea of giving her a human voice. It seemed wrong to do so. Her eyes and the way she moved were so expressive, I could feel the silent agony of her pain and loss just by looking at her, and hoped the viewer would feel it too. My appeal is to the viewer's heart, not to his or her intellect, and I think the absence of a voice-over helps to achieve this. It so happens this also enhances the lyrics in the songs, but that is secondary. In fact, I actually now feel that these lyrics were not necessary.

Into the Wild: Dan Brockington wrote that you were unwilling to keep the Orangutan Sanctuary away from blame, even depicting where it has used timber and paper products. Was this an intentional move, demonstrating that the use of timber even stretches to ironically house Orangutans that have lost their homes due to deforestation?

Patrick Rouxel: Green is not about the doings of any specific sanctuary, so there was no need to highlight where exactly the sick orangutan was cared for. I don't blame the sanctuary for using wood and paper products, I just point out the fact that something is fundamentally wrong with all human action. We may generously give with one hand, yet in the process, we take with the other. I do it too: I make a film to help protect the rain forest and the orangutans, yet my camera, my computer, my travels, etc, all contribute to wreaking the environment. The best way to protect the orangutans or any wildlife would be to just leave them alone. Of course one can chose to live in such a way that one's footprint is reduced to the minimum, but the destruction would still go on. And if one fights it or helps in the caring of its victims, one necessarily becomes part of the destruction.

The only truly effective way protect the planet would be to rid it of humans, except perhaps for a few tribes here and there who still live in harmony with their environment. We, humans, are the problem, and we continue to be so even when we try to do good. 

Into the Wild: From being in the areas that were once thriving jungle, how big does the scale of the deforestation feel?

Patrick Rouxel: The scale of deforestation in Indonesia feels gigantic, ruthless, never ending, shameful and unforgivable. When you have spent time in tropical forest to appreciate the quantity of the different life forms it is made of, when you know that what you can see and hear is only a fraction of what there really is, when you have had a chance to observe the behavior of majestic animals like orangutans, sun bears, elephants or gibbons, you can only feel that our destruction of the rain forest is absolute blasphemy. 

Into the Wild: What had actually happened to Green? And how did you hear of her plight/come across her?

Patrick Rouxel: The orangutan I named Green in the film, was rescued from a palm oil plantation and suffered cerebral damage making her left side paralyzed. This is why she stays lying on her back. I came across her by chance when visiting a rescue center. I was immediately struck by her suffering and spent about 3 weeks filming her daily, as respectfully as I could. As I filmed her I began visualizing the film I would end up making.

Into the Wild: Did you face difficulties in filming in the factories? How willing were the companies to let you film?

Patrick Rouxel: With the help of a very good looking assistant, who could charm her way in, it was relatively easy to get to visit the factories. She did the talking while I filmed as if by pure curiosity. But this was a few years ago. I doubt it would be possible today with all the bad publicity that palm oil has rightly received.

Into the Wild: Green is only your third film, and it has received huge acclaim. You write that you had to make the story so that Green die's at the end of the film in order to keep the message in people's minds. With the responses you have received - do you think you have affected the way people think about the products they buy and the way in which they are made?

Patrick Rouxel: It is impossible to measure the impact of the film on people's behavior. Many have thanked me for opening their eyes to an environmental disaster they were not fully aware of. Many have expressed their desire to change their consumer habits. But Green is just a drop of water in the ocean, it won't change the fate of the orangutans or the rain forest. This age and time is about making money and buying stuff, not about empathy and respect. As individuals we can change, but as a species, we don't seem to have the collective intelligence to do so. I wish I could make a film that would have a global impact, but that is just wishful thinking. Every day chunks of the planet are becoming the withered corpses of what they were, and there is unfortunately nothing much we can do about it, except fight this man powered tsunami at whatever scale we can.

The film is copyright free for all non-commercial screening; watch online or purchase the DVD.

Learn more about Frontier’s conservation projects in Indonesia. Find out more about opportunities to volunteer worldwide.

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