A fascinating, though sometimes self-consciously arty documentary on the Borneo rain forest, this Swedish film (with some English dialogue but mostly in Swedish and German, with subtitles) is better in some of its parts than as a whole.
But those parts are well worth the ticket price.Accompanied by gorgeous, lush cinematography and a mesmerizing musical score, this documentary makes no bones about having an agenda. If you're looking for balance, look elsewhere; this is strictly commerce vs. the environment - and commerce is unquestionably the bad guy.
"Tong Tana" takes the audience into the 160 million-year-old rain forest for an ethereal look at the nomadic Penan Indians who live there, dependent upon the rain forest for survival. On the other side are the encroaching loggers who are tearing the land apart. In 10 years, we are told, this rain forest could be merely a memory.
The film's most powerful centerpiece is a quiet interview portrait of a German-speaking Swiss journalist who has forsaken the trappings of civilization to live among the Penans. He has supposedly done so to encourage them to sabotage the efforts of the logging industry, but it becomes increasingly clear that this is a selfish choice as well since the simplistic lifestyle is one he revels in.
For his sabotaging efforts he finds himself in hiding with a price on his head.
Then there is the Malaysian minister of environment who comes off as such a remarkable cartoon it's hard to believe he permitted himself to be filmed, much less saying some of the things he does - such as that the forest area would make a good golf course.
The argument here is stacked but effective because it is shown in human terms rather than by detailed scientific discussion.
Shots of the Penans in shorts and T-shirts says much about the gradual erosion of innocence in general and this endangered rain forest in particular.
"Tong Tana" is unrated but would probably carry a G; nothing offensive.
"Tong Tana" will have benefit performances Friday at 5:20 and 9 p.m. in the Cinema in Your Face! Theater, 45 W. 300 South, for the Utah Wilderness Association's 1991 Wilderness Forum. Admission is $5.
For further information contact the Utah Wilderness Association, 359-1337.