Mongabay founder comments on campaign around controversial new horror film


In a commentary posted this week, Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler announced his decision to participate in a fundraising campaign that accompanies the launch of The Green Inferno, a new horror film by director Eli Roth.

Rhett explains that while the film is going to be extremely controversial due to its depiction of a fictional indigenous tribe in the Peruvian Amazon, the inevitable outcry will be an opportunity for indigenous rights groups, conservationists, and environmental activists to get important issues in front of a broad audience that doesn’t usually pay attention to rainforests or the people who live in them.

“The controversy generated by the film is going to provide an opportunity to get forests peoples’ challenges and the plight of the Amazon in front of mainstream audiences that know nothing of these issues,” he writes. “It will also offer a powerful platform to groups working to defend indigenous rights and tropical forests: as the film’s promotional campaign kicks into high gear, media outlets are going to reach out to NGOs for comment on the film and real-life threats to forest peoples.”

Rhett says that when Roth and BH Tilt, the production studio, reached out out to him about potentially raising money via a crowd-funding campaign to address actual problems in the Peruvian Amazon, he saw it as an opportunity “to convert the inevitable controversy into something productive”.

“With the proceeds of this campaign, Mongabay will establish a journalism fund to produce stories on threats facing indigenous people and forests in the Amazon,” he writes. “Mongabay will also distribute funds to non-profit organizations working with indigenous people to protect forests, traditional rights, and cultures in the Peruvian Amazon.”

Rhett was careful to clarify that Mongabay is not involved in the marketing or the promotion of the film.

“Our role is to ensure that funds raised via the parallel fundraising effort organized by the filmmakers are used effectively to help indigenous people and forests in the Peruvian Amazon,” he told a reporter. “The money comes from the general public — most of whom probably don’t normally support conservation — not the film itself.”

Rhett also laid out a tentative timeline for the initiative, which is produced in further detail here:

  • Oct 2015: Fundraising campaign ends.
  • Nov/Dec 2015: Proceeds transferred; Mongabay engages advisory committee.
  • Jan/Feb 2016: Mongabay and advisory committee identify NGOs; Mongabay launches journalism project including call for pitches.
  • Fed-Dec 2016: Mongabay’s Amazon Indigenous Peoples Reporting Fund commissions stories for both Mongabay (published under an open Creative Commons license) and third party outlets.
  • Mar 2016: Grant invitation messages sent to NGOs.
  • Apr-Jun 2016: Funds from general operating support grants distributed to NGOs.
  • Dec 2016: Mongabay reports programmatically how funds were distributed and spent; NGOs may choose to reveal only their base city of operations rather than their full identity at this point.
  • Apr 2017: Grant reports due from recipient NGOs.
  • May 2017: Mongabay files annual 990, reporting general support grants given to specific NGOs.

The fundraising announcement was widely picked up in entertainment media, including Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

December 3, 2015 update

As of December 3, 2015, Mongabay has not received an update from the studio on the amount raised by the campaign.