September 6, 2017
A still from one of the trap cameras in Pakke Tiger Reserve. Source: Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department

At Pakke Tiger Reserve, two men shoot an inspiring film about nature and its protectors

A few frames into the film and we witness a killing. The archival footage establishes the threat that still looms large over wild animals and their protectors. It’s not easy to be a forest guard.

Braving the rains and the heat, walking for miles, carrying and cooking the food, and then always on alert for the poachers, these men and women serve us in an extraordinary way.

To appreciate their efforts, we have to understand how forests, they protect, keep our lives running. From the tangible wood and herbs to the intangibles like climate control and water, the jungle is always serving us. Televised shows on wildlife and adventure have brought us closer to these assets, but how does that look when seen from the inside?

The short documentary, ‘Lens of a Protector’, shifts the gaze of an adventure tourist to that of someone who lives the jungle.

Shot by two forest guards of Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, it offers the exquisite close ups of the magic called nature, including 3 months of trap camera footage of various animals in action. But more than that it shows us the people who monitor our protected areas.

Carrying the weights through long treks, managing the food and water shortage and staying incommunicado with the outside world are just some of the workplace issues.

Imminent threats from poachers, natural disasters and wildlife make it one of the most dangerous jobs but still low paid. The film also features families of the guards who died on duty. 

Imminent threats from poachers, natural disasters and wildlife make it one of the most dangerous jobs but still low paid. The film also features families of the guards who died on duty

Paro Natung and Chandan Patro, the filmmaker duo, work on daily wages but had the potential that could be put to good use.

“We had never used video cameras earlier but binoculars are an essential companion. We used them with mobile phones to shoot photographs. Our seniors at the forest department decided to send us for video training in Assam and as part of the course, we shot this film over three months period,” says Natung. 

They borrow equipment from the institute but with no electricity in the jungle, they have to play miser with the battery. No laptop also means they don’t always know what they have shot.

“Once we come out to the forest department office, we download the footage and back it up on hard disks. Then we travel all the way to Tezpur in Assam to the institute for using their editing facilities. It’s difficult to pay those bills with our meagre salaries, which is why we are hoping to raise some money and get our own equipment. That will also help us take smaller projects and make some additional income. More importantly, we will be able to tell stories from the forest we protect,” Patro says.

What Pakke is like, a promotional video

The talented duo has another film up their sleeves called, “Pakke on Macro”. The rushes of the film, showcasing intricacies of the wildlife in one of the most beautiful tropics forests of the world, look as professional as any we might have seen on National Geographic. With such talent and innate conviction for wildlife protection, Pakke can’t find better hands to wield the camera. 

For anyone willing to help the team with equipment or funds, contact their coordinator

The film was screened at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and The Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru. 

Manu Moudgil is an independent journalist. He is on Twitter at @manumoudgil

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