Every Voice Counts

As we continue our post-production and research—and as we interact with a wider variety of communities, we are experiencing that each tribe is its own nation. I have known this from history textbooks, but I am really seeing it now. All Amerindian tribes are not united and all Maroon tribes are not united. They are each their own people. I think it is amazing how leaders in Suriname (Indigenous and Maroon) are working to bring the distinct groups together. The key is that this time, it is voluntary AND cultural identity can be retained in the interaction. Historically, when tribes came together it was often through war or colonization. Both events led to extinction or marginalization of one or more ‘nations’.

I believe that it is critical for the interior tribes of Suriname to unite in the face of global development. They need to preserve (and cultivate) their own identities, but their survival depends on being heard. It’s like the little voice in Horton Hears a Who. Every voice counts. And “a person’s a person no matter how small [or remote his/her location!].”

Progress Update: Inside Suriname

We are working on the next Suriname film. This one will be about an hour long. Why is it still taking so long? Translation time, 2 full time jobs (between my husband and me) and family are the big reasons. Regrettably, our documentary work must take second to our family income—but this is the way of so many non-profit projects, right?

In any case we are very excited about this 3rd film! We are including Amerindian (Indigenous) and Maroon (lived there for about 500 years or so) tribes. The issues that the Amerindian and Maroon communities face are really the same on so many levels—access, health, education…

Sarah Augustine & Dan Peplow in Kwakogroen, 2007

On November 2010, we finished a rough cut (a very rough cut) and sent it to Suriname with Sarah Augustine, co-director of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund. The tribes have all had an opportunity to view the film and have been sending us their feedback. Because we are only using community directed filmmaking methods, we will not release anything until we get approval from the people participating in the films. So, this trip in November was very important! We have been unable to contact the Maroon communities of Kwakogroen since 2007. There were no cell phones, internet or reliable connections to their communities. When Sarah returned last November, she learned that a lot has changed for Kwakogroen! They have several cell phones now. Also, there is at least one man who travels to the coastal capitol city regularly, so we can mail supplies and dvd’s as needed. It is such a relief to be able to know that we can contact our friends regularly now!

On a more somber note, one of Kwakogroen’s communities is almost gone. Makki Kriki is the smallest village that we interviewed in 2007. Sarah reported that only 2 families remain in this tiny village. I hope that this move has been good for the people involved. However, I know that when we talked in 2007, they were very concerned about losing their village. It appears that their fears are being realized. I found Makki Kriki to be such a charming little village. I can’t help but feel like we have lost something precious. I can’t imagine how its people must feel.

The fresh water situation has been a rollercoaster of activity, as well. The mining company (I AM GOLD), helped install a water system in Kwakogroen, but they did not work with the community, and the water system is not providing enough water or consistently safe water. Since the community was not involved with the installment or design, they are struggling with knowing how or if they can repair it. This is just one more example of how working with a community (actually, just enabling the community to do the work) is more sustainable and effective.

We don’t have a release date for this third film yet, but we are making progress. We have the software to do color correction on the footage. We are ready to do final audio mixing. We are continuing work on graphics to illustrate some of the more technical scientific concepts that impact the communities…many details remain, but it is exciting!


A Grandmother in Makki Kriki