Long Sa’an – The Journey Back

  • behind the scenes
  • Efred
  • Remon
  • The director Erick Est
  • Dayak dancing on stage
  • Agung Rai speaks at ARMA
  • David Meetcalf at ARMA with Agung Rai
  • Philius
  • Philius in the river 2
  • long sa'an movie banner
  • During the project
  • Long Sa'an leaflet
  • Dayak boys in the river
  • Dayak boy by the river
  • Rex Urwin
  • David Metcalf
  • Dayak tribe
David Meetcalf at ARMA with Agung Rai

David Metcalf (right) at ARMA with Agung Rai (centre)

It was at the Bali Spirit Festival 2015, and precisely at the opening Government and Music conference held at the ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art) that we were introduced by Bali based photographer David Metcalf to the touching story of a village called Long Sa’an and of its community. The conference highlighted the main theme of the BaliSpirit Festival 2015: the support for the survival of the indigenous people of Indonesia. The event was attended by ARMA owner and Bupati of the Gianyar Regency Mr. Agung Rai, as well as by the makers and protagonists of the movie Long Sa’an – The Journey Back (Indonesian talented, award-winner film-maker Erick Est, young Balinese musician Robi Navicula, who has a passion for raising awareness about the plight of the forests and wildlife, village elder Philius, and photographer David Metcalf himself) and by Ibu Siti and members of her Spirit of the Hornbill, a local Dayak dance academy from Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

The director Erick Est

The director Erick Est

Dave developed the idea of a movie on Long Sa’an while visiting Setulang, a village of about 800 people situated deep in the Indonesian Borneo near the Malaysian border, on a photographic expedition with partner Rex Urwin, a master coach and workshop developer who has been involved in working with cultures and eco tourism. Dave and Rex became very attached to the Khenya Dayak tribe that live in the edge of the pristine rainforest, and listened to their stories: some of them were moved to their current village from deep inside the forest in 1969 and have never been back since, and nowadays have a deep longing to return to their original village Long Sa’an, five days by canoe up the river, but they can’t afford the cost of the journey.

Since that moment they pledged to raise enough money to grant seven of these elders their dream of visiting their ancestors’ burial grounds up the Kayan river, deep in the heart of the forest. Money was raised and are still been raised since efforts to make a difference to seeing life-changing projects like this become a reality are never enough. Dave has so far donated most of his savings in order to bring people from all over the world, pay for the production of the documentary and mount the expedition, and has managed to secure the support of Jason Houston, one of USA’s foremost environmental filmmakers and photographers.

Philius in the river 2

Philius in the river at Long Sa’an

You can donate money to this project by clicking https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6kIi0/sh/23FfU8

The subsequent expedition to this ancestral village in North Kalimantan where the spirits dwell, resulted in a multimedia film-documentary blending film, still photography, music by Robi Navicula, paintings by Wolfgang Widmoser, a famous artist based in Ubud, and voices, showcasing the Dayaks’ unique culture, bringing them together with representatives of other indigenous peoples from around the world, and raising awareness of the environmental threats this pristine rainforest is facing.

This movie will be a way of preserving the Dayak’s threatened way of life in the forest – much of which has already been lost – for future generations. This tribe is so connected to the forest


Dayak boys in the river

Dayak boys in the river

The wise Dayaks are spiritually connected to the forest and consider it ‘Tala Olen’ meaning ‘Forbidden forest’. They are spiritually connected to the forest, to the rivers and to the land and have strict cultural rules about cutting down the trees or damaging them in any way. The Dayak people’s forest is not the only one ecosystem under threat. In large part of Indonesian Borneo, or Kalimantan, logging practices and dam projects regularly destroy huge swathes of the environment. Kalimantan represents only 1% of the Earth’s surface but 5% of its flora and fauna, including untold numbers of trees and plants still undiscovered by mankind, amongst these unknown species that could have huge medicinal benefits. Yet, 52% of Kalimantan’s forest has already been lost.

behind the scenes

behind the scenes

So this documentary will be used not only to depict the Dayak’s culture but also to raise awareness about the imperative need to save the forests and the wildlife. Several artists and activists from several cultures will accompany David to tour it around Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada in the hope that by showcasing the beauty of the forest and the unique cultural beliefs of the Dayak, they will showcase the potential for eco-tourism in this area as an alternative to damaging logging and dam projects.

A trailer of the documentary was played at the conference and repeated at a workshop at the Bali Spirit Festival. Here a few links that will satisfy your curiosity:


Long Sa'an leaflet

Long Sa’an leaflet




To know more about the documentary: http://www.thejourneyback.info

Starring: Philius Kevin Locke David Metcalf Co-Staring: Rex Urwin, Gede Robi (Navicula), Ardi Sayuti, James Greenshields, Dave Gaffy, Martin Holland, Jerome Brookes-Metcalf, Bisin, Benyamin, Remond, Efred, Ramses, Sarang

Follow the project on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LongSaanMovie?fref=photo

To get in touch directly with David please contact +62 8111 331255 or email davidmetcalf3@mac.com

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more then fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on www.asianitinerary.com

View all articles by Thomas Gennaro