|The filming of Forest Man. File picture
Jorhat, April 18: Canadian filmmaker William Douglas McMaster’s short film Forest Man, on Jadav Payeng — who single-handedly erected a small forest on a sandbar here — has been slotted for screening at Cannes in the first-time filmmaker’s category.
McMaster told The Telegraph through email that the 16-minute film — for which he has also written the script — was among the top 14 films to be selected for viewing in a special Emerging Filmmaker showcase at The American Pavilion in Cannes in May.
The date and time for the screening of the film, which, in 2013, had received the International Film Festival of Cinematic Arts short film documentary award, is yet to be finalised.
“It is an opportunity for young filmmakers to have their works seen by Cannes Festival and Film market participants and also win prizes,” he said.
The American Pavilion is the central hub of the American film industry at Cannes, and the Emerging Filmmaker showcase gives an opportunity to filmmakers from all over the world who have made their first film.
McMaster said he had come to Karthik sapori, where Payeng lives, with a friend and stayed for a month to make the small-budget film in October 2012. Bijit Dutta, a local lad of Kenduguri here, was instrumental in bringing McMaster from Ontario to Jorhat through his travel blog.
McMaster said the story focussed on the incredible achievement of Payeng in the face of all the destruction caused by floods and erosion and erecting a forest over 1,400 acres of land on his own.
“We wanted to tell a positive story — a story about someone who has taken matters into their own hands. We showed that though Payeng lives a simple life, he still made a big difference in the world. Also, we examine Payeng’s ideas on how to stop erosion along the Brahmaputra through plantation, and how frustrating it is that no one in the government has adopted the idea,” he said.
McMaster, who is in his early thirties, said Payeng was a very special person.
“From the moment I met him I could sense his charisma, intelligence, and positive energy. He was extremely hospitable to us, welcoming us into his home and showing us his forest. In fact, everyone we met in the Jorhat area was extremely kind and helpful to us in making this film. We did not expect this. I can honestly say that the people in Jorhat are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I was honoured with a number of gamosas from the people, including Payeng,” he added.
Payeng said he was very happy that his Molai Kathonibari, as the forested area is known, was reaching the global audience.
“I hope my story inspires people to take up environment and conservation efforts in different ways. As for me I am happy today to see the number of birds and animals, which have made the wooded area their home,” he said.