MESYM Documentary Night #7: Cross-Currents: A Documentary on the Environments in Asia

MESYM’s Documentary Night is held every 2nd Tuesday of each month. Everyone is invited to come hang out, watch a documentary, meet like-minded friends and take part in the discussion. Admission is free!

Just after its avant-premier in Malaysia and on its way to Chicago, we are screening Cross-Currents: A Documentary on the Environments in Asia, a documentary by prizewinning filmmaker Nick Deocampo. With water as central theme and imagery, the documentary takes its viewers across five Asian ecological sites and shows how local inhabitants, often without scientific help, have developed indigenous ways in taking care of their environments in the face of natural and man-made calamities.

We have also invited Justine Vaz, founding President of the KDCF Society, to comment on the documentary and give more insights concerning the situation in Tasik Chini. In connection with the film, Justine has been working on a semi-scholarly book to be published by the Asian Public Intellectuals and Areca Books next month. Living Landscapes, Connected Communities: Culture, Environment, and Change Across Asia features communities contemplating contemporary environment and resource challenges in five Asian countries.

About Cross Currents

Introduction by Nick Deocampo

Trailer

With water as central theme and imagery, the documentary takes its viewers across five Asian ecological sites and shows how local inhabitants, often without scientific help, have developed indigenous ways in taking care of their environments in the face of natural and man-made calamities.

Two stand out among the region’s most notable responses: spirituality and community action. Across the region, spirituality has been seen as Asian people’s first line of action toward environmental threat, finding expressions in various ways from the shamanism observed among native Ivatans in a fishing village in Batanes (Philippines) to the ethno-medicine practiced by orang aslis, or “the original people,” in the lakeshore community in Tasik Chini (Malaysia). But while spirituality forms a pervasive practice, local peoples are practical enough to take physical action in order to effect real change in their communities, whether it may be through the observance of merti code (or river cleaning) in Yogyakarta (Indonesia), suan som rom (mixed orchard farming) in the mountain orchards of Khiriwong (Thailand), or the seasonal cleaning of irrigation canals in a farming village in Mukugawa. (Japan).

All these practices enjoin participatory community engagement in order for spirituality to become potent and for community actions to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Heeding local environmental solutions practised by ordinary people living in communities that bear the brunt of nature’s destruction, these bearers of local wisdom may yet provide new perspectives that will give hope for survival in the evolving field of new ecology.

About the Filmmaker

Prizewinning filmmaker Nick Deocampo is a multifaceted personality in Philippine cinema. He is the country’s leading documentary filmmaker, author, film teacher, film historian, and director of the Center for New Cinema. He has won several awards for his gritty documentaries and personal films beginning with his trailblazing trilogy about life during the military dictatorship in the Philippines. Recently, he has embarked on a ten-hour historical documentary about Filipino cinema in 3D animation starting with Cine>Sine, about the beginnings of cinema in the country.

Deocampo’s academic credentials include a Master of Arts degree in Cinema Studies at the New York University under a Fulbright Scholarship Grant. He received his Certificate in Film in Paris as a French Government scholar. He has also received academic recognition as Scholar-in-Residence in New York University, Chancellor’s Most Distinguished Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine; International Fellow at the University of Iowa; etc.

In 2001, he was among the first to be awarded the Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Fellowships grant by The Nippon Foundation. Through TNF, Deocampo has been contracted to make the six environmental documentaries included in this program.

Cross Currents

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