1984: Searching for an experience beyond modern civilisation, Bruno Manser travels into the jungles of Borneo and finds the nomadic Penan tribe. When the existence of the Penan is threatened by relentless deforestation, Manser takes up the fight against logging with a courage and determination that makes him one of the most renowned and credible environmentalists of his time. Based on a true story.

Cast & Crew

Bruno Manser • Sven Schelker
Along Sega • Nick Kelesau
Ubung • Elizabeth Ballang
James Carter-Long • Matthew Crowley
Chang • Davis Ka Shing Tse
Roger Graf • Benjamin Mathis
Vater • Daniel Ludwig

Director • Niklaus Hilber
Written by • Niklaus Hilber, Patrick Tönz, David Clemens
Producer • Valentin Greutert
Coproducer • Philip Delaquis
Director of Photography • Matthias Reisser
Editor • Claudio Cea
Music • Gabriel Yared
Line Producer • Stephan Barth
Production Designer • Michael Baumgartner
Costume Designer • Verena Haerdi
Hair & Makeup Designer • Marina Aebi
Sounddesign • Ramón Orza
Casting • Corinna Glaus, Irene Cotton, Melisa Hana Kristianty


Bruno Manser was the most famous environmental and human rights activist of the 1980s and 1990s. And yet today, almost 20 years after his disappearance, Manser’s story is more relevant than ever. With increasing globalization and the ever-growing demand for natural resources, protecting the rainforest and its indigenous people has become an even more urgent task.

What fascinated me about Manser’s story was how he continued to fight selflessly for a morally just cause, despite his efforts being repeatedly thwarted – first by the authorities in Malaysia, and then by those in Europe. What kept him going? The combination of naivety and perseverance in the fight against a globalized economic system makes him an important gure of recent history.

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I was also inspired by his idealism: he longed for a precivilization paradise – for original human innocence, you could say. I think we all carry something of that longing in us. But in this modern world, we can no longer tell the difference between what we actually need to live and what we just long for superficially.

The more involved in writing the script we became, the more profound and radical we realized Manser’s story was. Suddenly, we were dealing with a piece of human history.
We understood why the Penan as a people were so important to Manser: as one of the last nomadic communities left living in the jungle, they remind us who we were before humans began to settle on land and accumulate property – the moment we drove ourselves out of paradise.

Since the Penan are still ghting for their land rights and their story continues, it seemed only logical to me to cast actual Penan in the film. But these men and women had no idea what acting or filmmaking was about, and they spoke a language that only they understand. For the casting, I spent three months travelling through remote jungle areas and shot more than 400 screen tests with various Penan.

As the name Manser is still taboo in Malaysia today, we had to gain the trust of the Penan and convince them to leave their families for months to come live and shoot with us in Borneo’s Indonesian territory of Kalimantan. It was equally difficult to convince the timber companies that controlled the shooting locations to grant us permission to film, and to set up an infrastructure in the jungle necessary for such a film production.

My aim was to make a film that was both contemporary and classic; traditional in its narrative style, yet modern in the way it provides the viewers with food for thought and forces them to engage. For the visual design, I was inspired by romanticism – by epic landscapes and emotional music. Manser was a romantic at heart, and I hope the film reflects a part of his soul.

Niklaus Hilber
Writer & Director

Film Soundtrack

When director Niklaus Hilber sent me a short 15 minute teaser of his film, I was immediately struck by the beauty and majesty of the images and inspired by the authenticity of the tribes and

Orchestra conducted by Orchestral Leader and Solo violin

Solo Soprano
Choir conducted by All keyboards

the lead actor. I dived into this project straight away, putting all my energy and consciousness into searching for the right music. It was important for me not just to “collaborate”, but to bring all my skills to help defend this remarkable film. I hope it will make audiences around the world understand and wake up to these important environmental issues. I feel honoured to have been a part of this journey, and to have had the wonderful opportunity to write the most beautiful themes I could.


Gabriel Yared
Academy Award Winner for THE ENGLISH PATIENT


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