The beautiful yet tragic story of the Batwa people begins deep in the equatorial rainforests of central Africa. Home to the last of the world’s Silverback Mountain Gorillas population. These forests once sheltered and provided for both man and beast. The Batwa (formerly known as pygmies) of South West Uganda were the first inhabitants of these forests with accounts of their presence being recorded as far back as 4,000 years.
The Batwa once thrived as traditional hunters and gatherers where they sustainably co-existed with the world around them. With encroaching farmland and poaching threatening the survival of the gorillas, pressure mounted from the international community to seize and protect the remaining forests.
In the early 1990s the Batwa were evicted from their ancestral lands in the name of conservation. Today, there are less than 6,700 Batwa left, making them 0.3% of the total Ugandan population. They are stigmatized, marginalized, and have no representation in the government. With a life expectancy estimated as low as 28 years old, it is questionable if this group of indigenous peoples can survive.
The organization, Development in Gardening (DIG), has been working with the Batwa helping address their basic needs of food security and nutrition by designing sustainable gardens while honoring their culture, communities and providing a new source of income so that the Batwa can continue to thrive.
November 2017 - I had the pleasure of attending the Cocktails & Castoffs fundraiser for the Development in Gardening organization. At this event, I was overcome with hope by what this group has been able to accomplish in 10 short years. Listening to Sarah Koch speak about the Batwa and how their team has taught communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa to sustainably grow a more nutritionally diverse and food secure diet by simply teaching underserved communities how to plant gardens left me in awe and wanting to help.
December 2017 - Recognizing that awareness is the first step toward driving social change, but change makers often lack the resources or knowledge to use 360 Virtual Reality (VR) to shine a light on the causes they care about, I suggest that Sarah and the DIG team apply for a Google Daydream Impact Grant. Through this grant they would have access to the 360 capture technology for 6 months and the Daydream platform to develop and showcase their amazing story which is now called: Growing New Roots.
January 2018 - DIG is awarded the Google Daydream Impact grant and I am volunteering my time to direct/produce the 360 VR film which will shed light on the Batwa peoples story and the profound work the DIG organization has been doing.
February 2018 - Scripting and storyboarding has begun. Sound production partners are in place and elements of historical storytelling, traditional music, daily life, sweeping vistas, challenging terrain, lush forests, silverback mountain gorillas and vibrant gardens will be featured throughout the experience. The story and format will pull the viewer into the fascination, history, vulnerability, and resilience of the Batwa as they prevail even during adversity.
March 2018 - We start our gofundme effort to raise money for:
- Travel, housing, permits, visas, ground transportation, generators, flights, food and security ($12,000)
- One day permit for filming Gorillas - $5000/day (1 or 2 days needed)
-VR Technology laptop, Pixel mobile phone, a Daydream headset, Oculous/Vive system $4,000
May - 2018 - And we are off to Africa! 14 days will be spent traveling throughout Southwest Uganda. We cannot wait to see what's in store for us in this beautiful country!
June -2018 - What an AMAZING journey. Through the mountains of Africa a new world was brought into focus. A world that has suffered and endured so much with so very little to call their own. Getting to film the Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat was simply breathtaking - literally. When there is a 600lb Silverback Gorilla standing less than 3 feet from you, it tends to make you hold your breath and look down at your feet, all the while stealing secret glances at these amazing creatures.
August 2018 -We have started post-production on the film and continue to raise money for our effort. 100's of hours over the past two months have been devoted to stitching content through the Google Jump Program. We have 5 days of footage and over 100 takes from our trip to Uganda to sift through. We are also getting all of the interviews we did locally with the Batwa people in their native toungue - Twa - translated into English and cannot wait to be working with the folks from Sonic Union in NYC to get started with editing.
We are requesting a tax-deductible monetary donation in any amount which will assist us in bringing this film to life. The Batwa people’s story is not a story we can all turn away from. Without the world watching the Batwa are likely to disappear. Growing New Roots will endeavor to make the invisible visible and will call us to walk alongside this endangered community together; as we plant new roots for their future.
$25 - Vegetable seeds will be donated to the DIG garden for your contribution.
$50 -A fruit tree will be donated to the DIG garden for your contribution.
$75 -A set of garden tools will be donated to the DIG garden for your contribution.
$100 -Your name rolled in the credits of the film.
$500 - You will receive a copy of the Cocktails and Castoffs CookZine & be invited to the premiere screening of the film & your name rolled in the credits of the film.
$1000 -All of the above and a private showing of the film in your home with up to 10 friends & your name rolled in the credits of the film.
If you cannot donate at this time, please share our gofundme link with your network. If you are able to contribute, we thank you!
- Anita Rajendra
- Jane Nguyen
- Amy Chmielewski
- April Arrglington