• Golden Globe Awards

Paradise War: The Story of Bruno Manser (Switzerland)

Paradise War tells the true story of a Swiss environmentalist, Bruno Manser, who joined the nomadic Penan tribe in their fight against the catastrophic deforestation in Borneo during the late ‘80s. Bruno Manser eventually went missing in the depths of the Malaysian jungle. This film is an epic account of a courageous man who looked for life beyond urban civilization and ended up fighting a global economic system.
Shot with the participation of the Penan and starring a Swiss actor, Sven Schelker, in the title role, Paradise War is the biggest Swiss production in years.
Director Niklaus Hilber says Bruno Manser’s name is part of the Swiss collective consciousness. “My own personal passion for this project came from the experience of spending three weeks with one of the last remaining tribes still living the nomadic life in the jungle. To witness their struggles and, in the end, to become their friend, were both great privileges that immeasurably broadened the horizons of my life.”
With a budget of almost $8 million dollars, and following a development period of nearly ten years, the second film from the Swiss director opened with a bang. Niklaus Hilber’s first film was the low-budget Amateur Teens: his second is totally opposite, both in terms of style and content.
Director Hilber says that, rather than use professional actors, he decided the Penan should play themselves. “Some of them had actually fought at the road blockades with Bruno Manser. Their participation in the film gave them a voice: never before had their story been told, and to see them overwhelmed with emotion at the Swiss premiere was extremely moving.”
Manser lived with the Penan tribe in Sarawak, Malaysia from 1984 to 1990, also organizing protests against the logging companies that were ruining their environment. Paradise War was shot mostly in the jungles of Kalimantan on the Indonesian side of Borneo, which stood in for Sarawak.