Film For Thought

Bali Indigenous Film Festival co-founder David Metcalf talks agency through art and the power of storytelling ahead of our first monthly film screening


In an ever-changing cultural and political landscape, images possess the power to serve as catalysts for new conversations and perspectives. Sharing this belief are Emmanuela Shinta, a young Dayak filmmaker and founder of the Ranu Welum Foundation, and Wellington-born professional photographer David Metcalf, who joined forces last year to create the first-ever Bali Indigenous Film Festival.


The festival, now going into its second edition this May, gives agency to the archipelago’s indigenous cultures (and beyond) by sharing their work while providing a gathering place for their filmmakers to meet, collaborate and inspire each other. As a brand steeped in the preservation of Indonesia’s ancient crafts, culture and traditions, Potato Head finds a kindred spirit in the festival’s mission and has teamed up to host a monthly programme showcasing the films.


Ahead of our first screening of Jeffrey Wium’s “Wisdomkeepers, Paqo Andino”—a story revealing the heart, intelligence and celestially integrated ways of the Andean Holy Mountain Tradition—we checked in with David to learn more about their efforts.

Potato Head | Interview with Bali Indigenous Film Festival's David Metcalf | Potato Head Beach Club, Bali

How did you and Emmanuela come up with the idea for Bali Indigenous Film Festival?

Emmanuela Shinta and I have been working together for the past three years supporting filmmakers in Kalimantan and decided to take it a step further by bringing indigenous people and filmmakers together from Indonesia and all over the world. We organised the first-ever Indigenous Film Fest in Bali last year, showing 35 films from 12 different countries.


Why is this subject so important?

Indigenous people are the true guardians of the forest, they represent 5% of the world’s population but look after 80% of the world’s forests. It is critical for humanity that we listen to what they have to say as they have lived sustainably with the land for thousands of years. Especially now with the threat of climate change, indigenous people can lead us in the future to a way through this crisis. The films cover a lot of these issues and can teach people much of this wisdom.  


For the uninitiated, what is the Ranum Welum Foundation?

Ranu Welum is an indigenous youth organisation which is a rallying cry for young Dayak people to stand up for their rights, land and cultures. They do this through filmmaking, telling stories, words, photography and bringing indigenous youth together. They also train filmmakers in Kalimantan and try and impact public policy in a positive way.


How can films and documentaries help make a positive change?

By educating people, bringing more awareness, opportunities to hear from the filmmakers themselves, what motivates them and help inspire people to be part of the solution and get involved if they wish. By hearing stories of what indigenous activists have been able to achieve in preserving their lands and cultures and gaining inspiration from this. We are using film as a way to tell stories that will strengthen heritage and cultural identity in the their communities.

What can we expect from the festival’s main programme this May?

This will bring together the largest gathering of indigenous filmmakers from Indonesia and overseas, ever seen in Bali or in this country. It is a very important moment for the island of Bali and a great opportunity for people to learn more about the way indigenous people see the world from their perspective and give the indigenous people a louder voice, which has mostly been drowned out in the past from colonialism. We are expecting filmmakers from Canada, U.S, NZ, Australia, Taiwan, Philippines, India, Thailand, and many islands from around Indonesia.


Tell us a bit more about “Wisdomkeepers.”

It’s a fascinating and well-produced film about the knowledge of this particular indigenous tribe living high up in the Andes. They have a very important message for the world, which comes from an ancient culture virtually untouched for 13,000 years. The film explores their spiritual beliefs and there are many lessons for the audience.

“Wisdomkeepers, Paqo Andino” screens at Potato Head this Sunday, 3 March. Tickets are IDR 150,000 and include a welcome cocktail, with all proceeds benefitting the Ranum Welum Foundation. Join us from 7pm on the Escalier Grass.