In Nepal, I dealt with some pretty intense challenges. Filming at 5400 meters on an icy glacier – leaping into a glacial lake – scrambling through icy boulder fields and sleeping in caves, dizzy with altitude.
In two hours, I’m about to embark on a journey into almost the polar opposite environment. But from what I’ve read and heard, the challenges may prove to be just as extreme.
I was contacted some weeks ago by Robert Hyman, a world Explorer and member of The Explorer’s Club. He’d seen my trailer for Outburst and was interested in finding a filmmaker who, as he put it, was “tough enough to make it into and out of this place alive.” It seems I’m building a niche for myself, though not necessarily one that’s good for my longevity…
Robert sent me a great deal of information on the Rio Platana Biosphere Reserve, where he’d been on expedition previously. A world heritage site, it resides in one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, and, as one might imagine, the government is all but impotent in managing this protected area. Home to some of the most important and concentrated animal and plant diversity in the world, it is being infiltrated, clear-cut, grazed, poached, and fished – and there’s no enforcement to keep it in check. What’s more, the native people who live in the area are being physically attacked and threatened by outsiders – most likely driven by Columbian drug-runners – who are trying to force them off of their land.
Our mission is simple: make a short film, a “hook”, that gives this untold story a voice, and shows how beautiful this rainforest is – a treasure we should fight to preserve. Accomplishing this, however, will take some doing. There’s the trek through the jungle swamp. There’s 2 weeks of intensive rafting and canoeing through class 5 whitewater rapids. There’s dengue fever, malarial flies, and – oh – it’s the deadliest snake habitat in the western hemisphere. Only some 400 people have ever done this route before, and as the litany of dangers was tallied (I haven’t even gotten to the armed poachers, or our multi-pitch climb up a never-before-summited rock mountain), I began to see why Robert had framed his interest in commissioning me the way he did.
There’s a great deal of good material on the Reserve that I’ll share upon my return. For now I’m going to take my malaria pill, pack my extra bug repellent and synthetic underwear, and get prepared to be totally unprepared for this journey. I’ll be out of contact most likely until March 1st (no wifi in the jungle), so I’ll share the story (and the photos) at that time.
Wish me luck!