Deep in the remote Peruvian Amazon a road is quietly destroying a protected rainforest, causing conflict and fear. But for some indigenous communities, desperate for change, it is also bringing hope.
The road is cutting through a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Manu Biosphere Reserve, and opening it up to the outside world.
Many indigenous communities are struggling to live in this 'paradise' and the road brings the promise of a better life.
Our short documentary, Voices on the Road, gives a platform to the unheard voices of Manu's communities and explores why many indigenous people want this road to be built, what their expectations are for when it arrives - and what the realities are likely to be, both for them and for this globally important forest.
This story needs to be told, and we need your help to make that happen.
What have you done so far?
We’re over a year into the project and it has been a wonderful, action-packed journey to get to this point. Here are a few highlights so far:
- Becoming the Scientific Exploration Society 2018/2019 Explorers as the recipients of the 2018 Neville Shulman Film Award. This crucial grant funded our expedition and equipment, without which this documentary could not have been possible;
- Spending 40 days travelling through the remote jungle and staying in 4 native communities, plus towns and cities, where we filmed over 50 interviews, mainly with indigenous people;
- Partnering with the world’s leading conservation news site, Mongabay.org, to release an online news film about the road’s construction, which now has over 208,000 views.
We spent 8 months researching and planning our filming expedition to the remote Peruvian Amazon rainforest before journeying to the Manu Biosphere Reserve.
Since returning home to the UK we’ve been working full-time to develop the film and promote what is happening in Manu. This has meant transcribing and translating over 50 interviews from Spanish-English, writing the story, editing the film, and working with press partners like Mongabay.org.
The story is written and the rough cut of the documentary is complete. Our tiny team of three have come a long way with the funding we have been given, and we now need to take this project to the next crucial step - we hope you’ll come along with us!
Watch the 2 minute social media film (mentioned above) that we made with the world's leading conservation news site, mongabay.org, to release the breaking news that this road started to be built after a three-year battle with environmentalists.
As soon as we finished filming Mongabay released this film on Facebook and it has been viewed over 200k times - a huge audience for a globally important story. However, it's impossible to tell this complex story in just 2 minutes. Our full 25 minute documentary will explore the issue in much greater depth, and - crucially - will be told using the voices of the people we met in Manu.
What do you need from me?
This story needs to be told. To make sure that as many people as possible from across the world can hear these unheard voices, we want to submit our film to international film festivals and the next step to making this happen is to lift the quality of the film to the standards being set by these events.
To do this we now need to partner with specialists, such as an editor and animator, plus work with voice over artists to protect the identities of our interviewees. But that all comes at a cost.
Our partners are lined up to work on the film and we are waiting for your investment to be able to continue.
If you believe in the power of independent journalism, the need to tell the real stories that are affecting people and our planet and want to support films that seek solutions, then invest today!
How have you calculated your target?
Our budget of £15,000 will give us the ability to work as lean and equally keen as we've been doing up until this point. Importantly, it will allow us to pay for:
- A professional editor and editing facilities;
- Voice over artists;
- Sound editor;
- A professional colourist;
- Motion graphics;
- Archive footage.
If we exceed the target, then additional funds will be invested in festival submissions, marketing costs - and also maybe occasionally eating!
What am I getting?
Every investment comes with the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting solutions-focussed, independent journalism and filmmaking. So give yourself a pat on the back and brag to your colleagues at the water cooler today - you deserve it.
Over and above all the good feels, we've made a variety of rewards for all levels of contribution you're able to make.
For individuals, there are a range of rewards, from your name on the film credits, to an HD download of the film and a high resolution, signed print photograph (the selection of prints available can be viewed here).
For businesses, organisations, schools and clubs, there are community film screenings including a Q&A from the filmmakers, motivational talks, corporate sponsorship options (including your company logo on our website, film and all related promotional materials) and invites to all events related to this film.
We understand that every investment can be substantial so please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have.
What if you don’t reach your target?
Good question! We’ve been asking ourselves the same thing. And here's the answer: we've come this far and there’s no going back - this film will be made! Now it’s a matter of making it the best it can be and telling this story as soon as possible to raise awareness of what is happening in Manu and across the Amazon.
Even if we don’t hit our full target, your support will be invested in this film, so rest assured that by supporting today you’re definitely joining a community of people who are all working towards making this project as brilliant as possible. So thank you!
Risks and Challenges
At this stage in the project the risks are lower than ever. The most challenging part is now over: our all-female team have spent 40 days filming in the remote Peruvian Amazon battling against the extreme rainforest environment attacking our camera equipment and dealing with a complex and polarising subject in an area with poor access for entering and leaving.
The biggest challenges now are time and budget. We’re a small team who have done a lot with the support we’ve been given, and we need to continue working hard with new crew members on board to get the project finished.
By supporting this film you’re not investing in a dive into the unknown, you’re lighting our way to shore.
Meet the team
Eilidh Munro, Filmmaker
Eilidh is this year's Scientific Exploration Society's Neville Shulman Film Award Explorer, and has been working as a filmmaker and photographer in the Manu Biosphere Reserve since 2017, capturing rare animal behaviour and footage of a species new to science. She has created documentaries and online films for NGOs and conservation media outlets, such as the leading environmental news site, mongabay.org. Eilidh is dedicated and passionate about telling conservation stories.
Alongside teammate Bethan, she co-created and ran a Multimedia Internship at a field research station in Manu. This experiential education programme provides workshops in writing, photography and videography, as well as career development for young adults wishing to break into the competitive media industry.
Before moving to the Amazon, Eilidh worked in an entirely different kind of jungle: the world of advertising. By running the marketing for one of the UK’s leading agencies, she learned a range of skills which she uses every day - in the field or the editing room - from leadership, to storytelling and strategic planning. View Eilidh’s portfolio at munrorambling.com
Bethan John, Environmental Journalist
A freelance environmental journalist, Bethan produces compelling media projects to inspire action for biodiversity conservation and social justice. Since 2012, she has been working alongside conservationists in-the-field to better understand and communicate the complex social, economic and environmental issues facing communities living in some of the wildest and most biodiverse places on Earth.
Having worked in Manu for over three consecutive years, Bethan became absorbed by the idea of creating a media project that could contribute to safeguarding the rich natural and cultural wealth of such a globally important place. Finding a like-minded, talented and supportive teammate in Eilidh, it wasn’t long before they were hatching plans and Voices on the Road was born.
Bethan’s media platform, Wildlands Creative uses the power of storytelling to inspire, train and support changemakers: wildlandscreative.com
Shirley Jennifer Serrano Rojas, Biologist
No stranger to expeditions or gruelling fieldwork, Jenni was part of the research team that discovered a species of poison dart frog new to science in Manu, gaining international media exposure for her subsequent scientific paper. She has also been an integral member of Tree Top Manu, one of the largest arboreal camera trap projects in the world, revealing new knowledge on the secretive lives of rare and cryptic rainforest wildlife.
Due to her specialist knowledge, Jenni has been the go-to scientific expert and guide for many high profile media expeditions, including commissions by the BBC and National Geographic. Having worked in the Manu region for many years and specifically in collaboration with local communities, Jenni has the knowledge and cultural awareness needed to make this expedition a success.
Jenni has been at the forefront of pioneering research in Peru for several years, with her determination and hard work proving that even as a recent Masters student in a competitive sector she has the skills to succeed.
Follow Jenni’s work on Twitter @JenniFrog25