Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

The battle for the rainforest

The Borneo Case
Regissør: Erik Pauser og Dylan Williams
(Sweden, Germany, Norway, Netherlands)

The Borneo Case is a "modern thriller" that shows how billions of dollars from illegal logging of rainforest are laundered by international banks. The filmmakers worry that mechanisms for punishing environmental crimes are lacking.


Wednesday 25. March will meet filmmakers and people from organizational life, the media and decision-making bodies at Good Pitch in Oslo. At the event in the Opera House, seven films will be presented to 146 different actors. In this way, new collaborations between filmmakers and non-profit organizations will be created.

One of the documentaries to be presented is The Borneo Case. The not yet completed documentary dates back 25 years in time and follows Borneo's rainforest through a transformation – from being home to pristine Native American tribes to being robbed of its natural resources.

In 2011, Swedish-British documentary duo Erik Pauser and Dylan Williams went to Borneo to find out what happened to rainforest activist Bruno Manser, who disappeared in 2000. Little did Pauser and Williams show that they would dive into an underworld of environmental crime, which extends far beyond the island of Borneo. The film portrays a small group of activists following the money trail. They reveal that major international banks have assisted corrupt local politician Taib Mahmud in laundering money from illegal logging. It leads them on collision courses with powerful forces, and in the wake of threats, kidnappings and killings.

consumer power

The Borneo Case will be shown in cinemas in early 2016, and the film will be followed by a campaign. The filmmakers hope to raise the audience's awareness of the giant banks' behavior. "We are not lawyers and we cannot sue the banks. What we can do is follow grades and ask questions. We hope the film can force the banks to listen, "Williams told Ny Tid.

Pauser says he believes in consumer power. He puts out offers to consumers, such as the Fair Finance Guide, which facilitates consumers to be informed about banks' investments: this. And then they can go home and check. "

oil Fund

The two documentaries will make Norwegians aware that the Norwegian Oil Fund has invested in Cahya Mata Sarawak (CSM), which is owned by the former regional minister of Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states in Borneo, Taib Mahmud. He sits at the top of the food chain in the extensive illegal harvest in the region. The Oil Fund owns 2,02 percent of the disputed company. This corresponds to a value of more than NOK 87 million.
In recent years, the Oil Fund has blacklisted three of the largest timber companies in Sarawak, because former Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen called an "unacceptable risk that the companies are responsible for serious environmental damage". However, CSM is still on the list of oil fund investments.
Williams believes the story of the deforestation of Borneo's rainforest is transferable to other situations and stories of corruption and resource theft: "Hence the title The Borneo Case. It could just as well have been The Amazon Case, The Papua New Guinea Case or The Congo Case. These patterns are seen all over the world. ”
The World Bank estimates that illegal harvesting generates $ 15 billion annually worldwide. Williams worries that there are mechanisms in place to punish those guilty of robbery of natural resources: "There is no international court for environmental crime. What we have seen instead is a global banking system that protects the dirtiest. "

The adventurer Bruno Manser

The reason for The Borneo Case is the story of the Swiss adventurer Bruno Manser. In the early 80s, Manser traveled to Borneo, the world's third largest island and home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. There he relied on the pristine nomad tribe Penan. Manser lived with the Penan Indians for almost ten years.

Towards the end of the 80s, Manser, along with his friend Mutang Urud, began the fight against the illegal harvest of the rainforest. This fight lasted for another decade, and much of it had to be fought in exile, as the two friends risked imprisonment and torture on Borneo. In 2000, Manser smuggled himself back on the island to meet the leader of the Penan tribe. Then he was a wanted man on Borneo, and a bounty of $ 50 was promised to him. Shortly after, Manser disappeared without a trace. He was not declared dead until 000.
After Bruno Manser's disappearance and several death threats, Mutang Urud finally gave up. He saw the battle as lost and traveled to Canada.

In exile

Mutang spends twenty years in exile, until he learns of plans to build a megawealth in Sarawak, which will cause tens of thousands of people to lose their homes. The company that supplies cement for the dam construction is Taib Mahmud's Cahya Mata Sarawak (CSM), the company that the Norwegian Oil Fund owns 2 percent. Mutang decides to go back, and The Borneo Case follows his journey back to his homeland.
Mutang describes his personal relationship with Borneo's rainforest in the preface to the book Money Logging by Lukas Straumann. Here he despairs that the rainforest, which has been home to humans for 40 years, has been destroyed in less than thirty years. Nearly 000 percent of Sarawak's ancient rainforest is gone. For Mutang, this environmental crime is about more than just the robbery of trees: "It is our culture that they have stolen."

Alerts killed

At about the same time as Mutang returns to Borneo, a group of activists in the Bruno Manser Fund have begun to uncover the Taib Mahmud empire. With the help of experts in the banking system and international law, activists follow the money trail. They uncover corruption and money laundering and publish their findings via social media and a local pirate radio station in Borneo.

The case grows out of proportion when the group obtains secret papers revealing that multinational banks have assisted Taib in laundering money from deforestation. Alderman Ross Boyert is found dead in a hotel room with a plastic bag around his head, and in Borneo, the DJ from the local radio station is kidnapped on high day.
The documentary follows Mutang in a meeting with Deutsche Bank, one of the banks that has assisted Taib in the money laundering. As small shareholders, activists from the Bruno Manser Fund are invited to a general meeting. There, Mutang gets the chance to ask the bank's management a question. He talks about the situation in Sarawak, and asks why Deutsche Bank still has links with Taib Mamoud, after, among other things, Bruno Manser activists informed the bank about Taib's activities in Borneo. Mutang asks if the bank should not question the ethics of such a business relationship. But then the sound disappears, and Mutang is told that time is used up. He can't ask the question he came the long way to ask, and no one tries to answer it.

Spreading knowledge

Filmmakers Erik Pauser and Dylan Williams hope the documentary can spread knowledge about and arouse people's commitment to international banks' disclaimers when it comes to corrupt politicians and environmental criminals.
Williams gives an example of how documentation and campaigns can bring about concrete change. In 2012, Global Witness reported in the report "In the future there will be no forest left" that the British bank HSBC, the largest banking group in the world, was involved in money laundering and supported the seven largest Malaysian carpentry companies responsible for deforestation of Borneos rainforest. Now HSBC has withdrawn from Borneo.
That's how Williams hopes that too The Borneo Case can also have an effect on the banks involved: "You have to catch them by the hand in the cookie box and shame them."

Good Pitch in Oslo

Since 2008, 2200 organizations in 34 countries have heard of ongoing or completed documentary film projects.

1021 new partnerships have been formed as a result of Good Pitch events.
87 Good Pitch movies have been used as a cornerstone of a national or international justice campaign.
$ 16 million has been raised in new funding for campaigns to get these films out into the world.

You may also like