Private Project

Mentawai - Souls of the Forest

75 minutes , 4K , 2023
Language versions available: English, German, French, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia

The last indigenous people of Mentawai, a small archipelago south-west of Sumatra, are fighting with creative resistance to preserve their ancient culture and rainforest.

A culture on the verge of extinction - with the latest geopolitical developments, the destruction of their habitat reaches the point of no return. Smashing the hopes of thirty years of democratization in Indonesia, Jakarta in relapse to authoritarian rule is enforcing deforestation in Mentawai.

In collaboration with investigative journalist Febrianti and indigenous foundations, our film portrays indigenous culture, history and resistance up to the most recent developments in geopolitical of Indonesia's growing environmental degradation.
Connect with all your heart and senses: see, feel, touch, smell life in the jungle. The cinematic and compassionate camera conveys an intimate and sensual experience of the indigenous life on Mentawai with its beauty and vulnerability.

Three shamans are the main characters in the film, hunter-gatherers in a culture predating even traditions of weaving or pottery, archaic traditions with their own complexity.
The film portrays daily life of the indigenous tribe, their spiritual cosmos and their commitment to preserving their own culture and natural habitat. Logging companies threaten the fragile eco-system of the islands.

Rare historic footage and archive materials tell the story of decades of oppression of the indigenous culture – but also of the resilience of our main characters and the last tribes living in the jungle. The main character, Father Laulau had been a leader in this struggle for decades, meeting the governor on Sumatra in a key point of history.

The latter part of the film explores the geopolitical context and shows a new generation joining our main characters in the fight for the preservation of both their environment and culture – as part of a larger movement in Indonesia.

The project started by indigenous initiative: Martison Siritoitet from Indigenous foundation Suku Mentawai (http:/ invited director Joo Peter to Mentawai and a long-term collaboration started including also Mentawai Indigenous Education Program (
The film is one of a planned series of films celebrating the diversity and richness of the Indonesian indigenous culture.

  • Joo Peter
    Pasola - Thaipusam - Trance for the Son of Shiva , Pasola - Battle on Holy Ground, Ogoh-Ogoh - Bali Monster, Visiting Green School
  • Joo Peter
  • Indigenous Foundation Martison Siritoitet
    Tuddukat - the Sounds of Nature in Mentawai (director)
  • Prof. Reimar Schefold
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 10, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    80,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Indonesian
  • Shooting Format:
    4K Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Joo Peter

born 1966 in Germany
Studied at Film University HFF Berlin Babelsberg
Art Academy Stuttgart
author, filmmaker, lecturer

Initiator & collaborator Martison Siritoitet
born 1998 in Mentawai, Indonesia
Yayasan Pendidikan Budaya Mentawai

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I'm grateful to be supported both by the Indigenous community as well as producer Ilona Grundmann, who also worked with Werner Herzog. As a working class kid it took me a long time to get hands on a decent camera to follow my passion. After travelling Asia for years, first as author and photographer, then filmmaker, this is my first doc feature after a series of short films.