This movie tells the story of Anne Laudisoit's expedition and her team of congolese scientists thru the Blue Mountains Region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring back evidence of the presence of a rich and rare biodiversity that needs protection.
WHY THIS FILM?
- Raise awareness about the preservation of wildlife sanctuaries in general and in a forgotten and unprotected area in the Northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- To discover this incredible region of the Blues Mountains bordering Lake Albert, where an unprecedented population of long-haired chimpanzees, was discovered by chance in 2015 by the biologist Anne Laudisoit and her team
- Through this awareness, attempt to convince major environmental authorities to classify this incredible forgotten jewel of life and all the biodiversity it harbors as a "natural endangered site"
- Mobilize the international community on the status of this zone, still unfairly classified as "red" (not pacified) since the end of the ethnic war in 2002, thus contributing to encourage scientific work and eventually eco-tourism development profitable for these extremely vulnerable populations
- Advertise the field work of scientists (biologists, naturalists) and show how it is inspired by the knowledge of the local populations, fundamental to the success of such missions of inventory of biodiversity.
ORIGIN OF THE PROJECT
The adventure of this movie begins in October 2015. Anne Laudisoit, biologist and modern explorer is doing research in the province of Ituri, northeastern of the DRCongo, overlooking the foothills of the Albertine Rift at 2,000 meters.
As she starts heading down a steep slope with her guide Oti, she stops gob smacked. The bed of the Koda River has dug a deep valley where a fragment of forest remains seemingly preserved, majestic, despite years of intense deforestation in the surrounding.
(Map : Pierre Huyghe, University of Antwerp)
To her surprise, Oti reveals that chimpanzees are still present. Suddenly shouts echo in the forest "Hou, hou, hou haaaaaaa! ". They are there indeed! Anne and Oti sat in silence, smiling in the twinkle of their eyes, and listened to them. She promised OTi to come back to explore Mbudha, the refuge of chimpanzees.
With the help of CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) that gave her the first camera traps, the University of Antwerp (UA) and the Royal Belgian Institute of the Natural Sciences, Brussels, (RBINS), Anne felt supported in this vennture. In 2017, she finally managed to set up a filmed expedition, roaming, with a team of Congolese researchers recruited at the Kisangani University (UNIKIS) and the Biodiversity Monitoring Center (CSB) led by local guides from Rehty in the Djugu territory.
Their goal: to walk transects crossing the heart of the forest inventorying the biodiversity of the area and estimate the chimpanzee density. A real investigation in the footsteps of the chimpanzees and other forms of life that sought refuge in these forested foothills !
She is also joined by longtime friends and audiovisual professionals. Because Anne has the idea to shot a movie film of this adventure to attract the international community to investing in the protection of this area of incredible biological and environmental richness ; yet threatened by anarchic logging and conversion to farmland.
SYNOPSIS OF THE FILM
Mbudha, in the footsteps of the chimpanzees, tells this incredible scientific expedition in the heart of this very rough forest in the North-east of the DRCongo, classified as a red zone since the war and in which no one had penetrated since 1999.
The objective: to inventory the fauna and flora, to prove the presence of a chimpanzees’community never documented before and thus to preserve the incredible biodiversity of these relict primary forest hidden in the heart of southern Africa.
During their adventure, according to clues picked up from the villagers and images shot by camera traps, the scientific team will find the chimpanzees’community that only the villagers knew existed. And they will make intriguing discoveries. Evidence suggests that locally, chimpanzees have funeral rites, and actively hunt small mammals ; a culture different from other documented groups.
On their return, Anne has been sharing here observations with Natural History Museum of Paris (MNHN), Sabrina Krief and other renowned primatologists including Annette Lanjouw in New York (ARCUS Foundation), Nikki Tagg in Antwerp (Center for research and Conservation, Antwerp Zoo, Belgium) and John Mitani (University of Michigan).
By following Anne Laudisoit and her scientific team, our documentary film invites the viewers to discover a biodiversity rich and rare hotspot, without proper conservation status, trying to label it a “community managed protected forest”.
In order to reach out to the greatest number, we want to edit a documentary that certainly relies on a rigorous scientific speech, but that also calls to the emotions, offering the viewers to share the moments of tension and joy of the team during this adventure in which they place high hopes.
Recognition walks (recce) will take place in the heart of steep-sided valleys in a fragile and wild environment, with the camps settling along the way following the clues reported in interviews and focus groups with the local communities. Then, the track will lead the team to a stream called Mbudha ("water of chimpanzees" in Kibale language), the protected source where a group of more than 10 chimpanzees comes to drink. Until this first unexpected encounter, a magical "live" moment at the very end of the expedition with the " Boudha of Mbudha ", the dominant male, and his whole family who will agree to be watched, for the first time, for 3 hours relaxing on a dead tree on the other side of the cliff.
Through this movie, we wish to reveal the daily life of a modern scientific explorer who live with passion and dedication her fight for the preservation of the natural and human richness of this region of the DRCongo.
Relying on the knowledge of their guides, the researchers and the villagers they met, the discoveries and camera trap evidence from the field and by sharing the daily life and emotions of the team, our documentary will highlight one fragmented relict forest of the Albertine rift and the dangers and threats it faces.
THE CHARACTERS OF THE FILM
Anne Laudisoit, nomadic explorer and biologist
Anne is an adventurer, climber and unconventional biologist who leads a nomadic scientist's life in search of animals carrying bacteria and emerging viruses. Ecologist by training, zoologist by passion, Anne has gradually become interested in the eco-epidemiology of zoonoses, diseases transmitted from animals to humans, such as plague, monkey pox, etc.
Preferring off-the-beaten track trails to paved roads, she developed a special interest in the remote bush of the DRCongo, a country she discovered during a mission in 2004.
In 2010 she also participated in a scientific expedition in the Makay mountain in Madagascar, for which Gedeon Programmes would produce a documentary film for Canal +.
Oti Kpanyogo, guide and translator, the one by whom everything started
Translator-guide Oti is also a logistician-compass bearer-driver-mechanic-cook in his spare time, he knows how to do everything and with a smile! Without him, Anne might never have known about this Terra incognita populated by chimpanzees.
He is - with Pasteur Jerome - the essential link to the success of this mission for his knowledge of the environment and his people.
Pasteur Master Jérôme Dz'na, guide and “linker” of the transect
Pastor represents the wisdom of the team, the moderator of the group. He is the one who makes the link with the elders because his ancestors are the chiefs of the villages crossed during the expedition.
He carried out the interviews that helped to gather the wealth of indigenous knowledge and local beliefs that led to Mbudha spring. He has an incredible strength despite his 54 years old and joins in every walks. He blesses the journey and every day’s meals and prays for everything to go as planned. He is also a final year Master student at the Pedagogical and Technical Superior Institute in Rethy (ISPT).
The team of scientists from the University of Kisangani and the Biodiversity Monitoring Center (CSB), that Anne trained, and who joined her during preliminary explorations in 2016 and this expedition in 2017 to start the inventory of this secret biodiversity eden.
THE FILM TEAM AND PRODUCTION
Caroline Thirion, director
In 2002, she falls in love with the Congo during a photo contest allowing her to go to any country in the world. Since then, she has worked on many topics, published in the Belgian and European press: Le Point, Jeune Afrique, Paris Match.be, Le Soir, La Libre Belgique, Le Vif l'Express, Knack magazine, NRC Handelsblad, Metro , La Dernière Heure, Imagine ...
In addition to her passion for photography, Caroline also likes to tell stories through other media. Whether in video (three documentary films to her credit), writing (author of articles and travel guides "Le Petit Futé" devoted to DRCongo) or transmedia (co-director of the web documentary "In her soul and conscience "awarded at the Paris International Film Festival of the Environment).
Samuel Vandenberg, director of photography
Son of a photographer, Samuel grew up between crates of rolls of film and the characteristic smell of the development lab. From his first trip to Africa at the age of 12, he spends his time climbing on the roof of his uncle's Jeep to bring back “clichés” of animals with his first digital camera.
Videographer, photographer and adventurer at heart, Samuel practising his scales in journalism in Brussels. He then started to make promotional videos for travel agencies around the world. After exploringTurkey camera on the shoulder, he is hired by the luxury travel agency “Continents Insolites” to promote their holiday package in Costa Rica. After shooting the movie he embarked on a one-year “Van” tour from Canada to Southern Mexico.
Jean-Michel Hertsens, stage manager-climber and logistician
With an agronomy and forestry training, Jean-Mi for close friends, shares with Anne his passion for climbing, that he turned into a job (tree trimmer-climber). Extremely versatile, resourceful and hands-on, he has already participated in several adventurous film shootings in Africa and the DRCongo as a director and logistician. It is the logistical and technical support essential to the success of filming and expedition. And also had a leading role in shooting images high in the nests of chimpanzees. He also plays his own role in the film, by introducing climbing techniques to the Congolese scientific team in order to place nets and camera traps in the canopy, under the astonished eyes of the porters and villagers. Today, he is setting up a 140-hectare safari park on the outskirts of Kinshasa and provide environmental awareness to urban school children.
GEDEON Programmes - producer
GEDEON Programmes has gained its fame with major documentaries on Jean-Louis Etienne's missions in the Arctic and Antarctic, and archaeological and palaeontological missions such as the Alexandria lighthouse, Zeugma or Toumaï... Films that have made the general public discover passionate researchers and explorers still unknown, such as the archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur or the paleontologist Michel Brunet.
Faithful to its primary vocation as a storyteller of scientific, historical, cultural and artistic knowledge, GEDEON Programmes has always produced creative documentaries which edition sometimes takes several years.
The genesis is often a discovery, an enigma, a commemoration, an exhibition, a special operation ... that make it possible to anchor in the spotlights, subjects with sometimes dense content, and to facilitate their showcasing.
These trigger events are an opportunity to popularize the subject, in the best definition of the word, thanks to the movie.
One of GEDEON Programmes' vocations is to continue to support researchers and explorers from all walks of life to publicize their work and make the public vibrate with them.