Our Story

Baka Pygmy Camp

1982 saw the broadcast of Phil’s first film, Korup: An African Rainforest made in conjunction with Partridge Films and featuring in the first week of Channel 4’s existence as a broadcaster. Korup was the culmination of five years of filming in this unique refuge rainforest, arguably the biologically richest in Africa, and was to spearhead a ten-year campaign resulting in the eventual designation of Korup as a National Park in 1986.

Coincident with filming the Baka people was the political opening up of China and the chance to discover on film, the country that was to become the crucial player in the international effort to mitigate the impact of climate change.

The series Beyond the Clouds saw us filming for two years in the 2,000-year-old market town of Lijiang in the far south-west of China. How privileged we were to live in two ancient courtyard houses as we sought to bring to life on film the ‘willow pattern’ world of everyday China for a television audience back home.

The theme of our relationship with nature still drives many of Phil’s films. The Korup film led to the Partridge Films series Fragile Earth with films about Central American Rainforests (Selva Verde), Bornean Mangrove (Siarau) and South African deserts (Kalahari) and the environmental programme Fragile Earth Retrospective. Siarau went on to win the prestigious Golden Panda at the 1984 Wildscreen Awards.

 

From wildlife came the move to filming people and two years of living in leaf huts with the Baka in south-east Cameroun to make Baka: People of the Rainforest. The switch from purely wildlife to people was motivated by seeking new ways of showing the importance of nature in all of our lives.

Korup National Park, Leopard's Rock

The theme of small town switched to a huge mega city and two years of filming Shanghai on the cusp of massive change in the middle 1990s. Shanghai Vice saw themes of love and death, crime and punishment against a city soaring to the skies. A world of drug smugglers, plain clothes detectives, safe houses, China’s secret police, the courts, prisons, executions all reveal a secret side of China never seen before.

Golden Sand River, Yangtze, Beyond the Clouds

And now we’ve come full circle back to the themes of Baka and Korup. China: Between Clouds and Dreams explores the many environmental themes at work in China today, tapping the pulse of a people desperate to leave a healthier world for their children.

Death Sentence for Heroin, China, Shanghai Vice
Huangpu River, Shanghai at Night, China Between Clouds and Dreams

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© 2017 by River Films

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Golden Sand River, upper reaches of the Yangtze