Film about Indonesia’s female environmental defenders wins award at US film festival

The film Our Mothers’ Land produced in partnership with The Gecko Project and featuring journalist Febriana Firdaus in her first documentary project won the 2021 Wild and Scenic Film Festival “Spirit of Activism Award” during a virtual ceremony held this past weekend.

It depicts female activists from across Indonesia whose rural communities are in conflict with corporations seeking control of their natural resources: when they push back, they face the wrath of the state. For the film, Febriana travels to meet many women who have risen to lead grassroots social movements and then face violence, imprisonment, and judgement from their conservative societies as they fight for their rights.

“As a journalist I always dreamed to have a project that can represent my biggest interests on an issue, that can have a big impact,” Febriana explains. “Since I studied in college, I have been very passionate about women’s issues. I’ve kept this story idea since 2016, the first time I met Sukinah, one of Kartini Kendengs, who cemented their feet in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta,” in a dramatic campaign which the film also depicts.

“To publish the film is more than enough for me. But after winning the award, I now realize that it is important to spread this documentary around the globe, so that this group of activists gets more exposure for their struggle. They are still struggling today, especially after the parliament finally issued the Omnibus Law that experts believe will only benefit companies and put the environment in danger.”

Of the award, the film’s director and cinematographer, Leo Plunkett of Relevant Films, said, “It is very exciting to be part of – and to win an award at – this year’s Wild & Scenic film festival. It’s important that the stories of these amazing women go beyond the borders of Indonesia. I hope their stories have inspired the festival audiences as much as they inspired us while we were making the film.”

Agreeing with Leo, Mongabay contributing editor Philip Jacobson, who has covered Indonesia extensively for the site, said, “The stories of the women featured in this film are inspiring, and the cultures they come from are fascinating and beautiful – they deserve to be protected. I hope the film conveys something of the incredible lengths they’ve had to go to in order to save the places they live in from destruction at the hands of corporate developers. May it also serve as a light for those who find themselves treading a similar path.”

For her part, Febriana has begun looking forward: “I am looking forward to working on more stories about women and the environment in the future.”

Watch the entire film here: