Camboida art & film: Jungle Guard – How Venerable Bun Saluth Protected the Land
A film by Sleuk Rith Motion Picture
Makara Ouch, Film Director
The 2019 release of this film is being screened throughout Cambodia and Director Makara Ouch is generously offering his time to students, young people, and organizations that may assist in bringing awareness to Cambodia’s vital environmental issues. It is filmed quietly and gently with on the ground shots of the forest, animals and the villagers, allowing the Venerable Bun Saluth to tell his story with his natural humor and straight spoken honesty. The power of the film is how it reflects the healing of both nature and the pain from its location as the last Khmer Rouge hold out. Without manipulation, the film invites emotion, action and peaceful activism to produce real respect and protection of the land.
We left, once again aching for the destruction of nature we have all allowed, yet feeling quite renewed that one man’s quiet insistence upon change and respect can be manifested. We also hoped there were more courageous monks out there to show us the way.
The showing in Siem Reap was held at Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Phare’s Andreas Dara Huot hosted the event and an excellent audience discussion.
JUNGLE GUARD is a documentary film that portrays the life of a unique Buddhist monk community that has voluntarily assumed the role of protector of a large parcel of natural forest and its indigenous wildlife, fish and related resources. The forest, known as the Monk Commune Forest, is located in Anlong Veng district, the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge rebel army and its surviving leaders, in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province.
Venerable Bun Saluth, founder of the Monk Commune Forest and film protagonist, founded the forest with a former Khmer Rouge soldier and friend after the monk expressed his dream to protect the environment. This forest was a battlefield between the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Government until a peace agreement for Anlong Veng was reached in late 1998. The friend urged the monk to act on his dream to protect and conserve the forest. Attracted to the forest and its rich animal and other resources that were under threat, Venerable Bun Saluth committed his life’s work to protect and preserve it.
This documentary film was patiently filmed using a movement camera and drone to illustrate the natural beauty of the forest, its rich resource base, and the daily life of the monk in how he interacts with and protects it. The film’s narrative relies in large part on moving images that trace the start of the conservation effort, illustrate the protections the monk has instituted, and describe the challenges and aspirations he and his community foresee for ensuring the future of the forest and securing a better life for the indigenous villagers.
It is my hope that this film can serve as a role model for others to study and learn from the monk’s effort and commitment.
In particular, I anticipate that it will appeal to and inspire the younger generation to proactively engage in efforts to raise awareness of and to protect Cambodia’s natural forests, wildlife and fish populations from those who would exploit and destroy them.