TAWAI : A voice from the forest




A film that invites us to look at life and the whole of human existence in a fresh way.

TAWAI: A voice from the forest


In addition to being an explorer, Bruce Parry is a man who has become known for presenting documentaries made for the BBC. On the face of it, TAWAI: A voice from the forest is a very different venture since it reaches us in cinemas and incorporates landscape footage shot in the rainforests of Borneo and the Amazon that gain from being seen in a film made in colour and 'Scope. But the fact is that TAWAI marks Bruce Parry's directorial debut and what he gives us has a style and mode of address that seems to belong to the world of television. One feels that all the more because the opening of the piece features a voice over by Parry: later, when seen on screen in the manner of Nick Broomfield in many of his documentaries, he comes across well enough, but that voice over suggests a scripted dissertation delivered by a lecturer.


However, this film is sufficiently unusual in character to be a work which will appeal strongly to those readily drawn to its viewpoint. It starts with Parry returning to Borneo to contact members of an indigenous people already known to him, the Penan. He now finds them living for the first time in a permanent building unable to continue to the full their former forest lives due to the work of logging companies and the laying of pipelines This situation is featured again towards the end of the film, by which time we have also had footage from the Ganges showing the Saddhu of India and sequences shot in the Amazon, home of another people, the Pirahã. Between times Parry visits the psychiatrist and author Iain McGilchrist who expresses his views about the differing ways in which the left and right hemispheres of the brain function.


It might sound as though this last aspect is remote from the rest, but TAWAI: A voice from the forest is a film    concerned with such matters as the state of the mind, the unity of man and nature (Tawai is the word that the Penan use to describe the inner feeling of being connected to nature) and the need to override the brain as we use it today to find the truth that comes from the heart. Ultimately Parry himself will describe how he came to feel part of the whole when in India he found all sense of the 'I' becoming lost in the 'We'. Quite apart from being a means of banishing all hierarchies and promoting peaceful  co-existence, this approach to  life comes close to mysticism and is promoted here as a corrective to the way in which those who embrace modern-day civilisation choose to live. Sincere as he undoubtedly is, Parry lacks the filmmaking skills to create a film poem that leads the viewer into meditation. Nevertheless, any reservations that I may have about the movie will count for little amongst those who feel that Parry's film is speaking directly to them in a moving and meaningful way.




Featuring  Bruce Parry, Iain McGilchrist, Ingrid Lewis, Jerome Lewis.


Dir Bruce Parry and Mark Ellam, Pro Adam Bohling, Giancarlo Canavesio, Uri Fruchtmann, Bruce Parry and David Reid, Screenplay Véronique Cabois, Tamara Colchester, Jeronimo Mazarrasa, Bruce Parry, Chris Seward and Rory Spowers, Ph Mark Ellam, Ed Véronique Cabois, Music Nick Barber.


Quest Unlimited/Creativity Capital/Mangusta Productions-Munro Film Services.
101 mins. UK/Brazil/India/Malaysia. 2017. Rel: 29 September 2017. Cert. U.