Press Release

September 22, 2014

Borneo’s Penan Tribe Seek Help in New Film

A new documentary, released online today to coincide with the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples at UN HQ in New York (2), reveals the trials of life deep in the jungle. Sunset Over Selungo shows the unique way of life of Borneo’s Penan tribe, who hunt with blowpipes and poison darts. Like many tribes globally, they are struggling to defend their rainforest home against big corporations. Determined to protect their ancestral lands, they are demanding the creation of a Penan Peace Park to recognise their land rights.

The Penan live in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in northern Borneo, the third largest island in the world. The ancient rainforest has been their home for centuries and is one of the oldest and most precious ecosystems on the planet, but only patches of pristine forest remain.

Sunset Over Selungo, named after the remote Selungo river, shows how closely connected the Penan lifestyle is to the jungle. Following Dennis, Unyang and Sia, the film offers an intimate insight into their lives. Sia explains, “the rainforest is the life and blood of the Penan. Everything we need comes from the jungle.”

But their homeland and culture is under threat. “Now there are very few animals nearby and timber is also scarce because the rainforest is being bulldozed” says Dennis in the film. 89% of forests in Sarawak have been heavily impacted by logging since the 1960s and logging roads total over 88,000km - enough to encircle the Earth twice over - according to satellite image analysis by Swiss NGO the Bruno Manser Fund.(3)

An excerpt from the film, Balan the Blowpipe Maker, has already received 200k views online. It is hoped the film will help gain official recognition for the Penan Peace Park, which would be a milestone for tribal peoples, recognising their rights and conserving threatened rainforest. Recognising indigenous land rights is also a very cost-effective way to combat climate change and conserve biodiversity.(4)

Speaking about the Penan Peace Park, Sia said, “this would be for the good of everyone, in this country and overseas. I hope that everyone both from this country and around the world would give us their support so that we can keep preserving this beautiful land that belongs to all of us.” 

The full 30-minute documentary is available to watch for free at


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Notes to editors:

  1. Sunset Over Selungo is an independent production by British filmmaker Ross Harrison.
  2. The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is a landmark event to promote indigenous peoples’ rights through the United Nations:
  3. Bruno Manser Fund:
  4. A recent report by the World Resources Institute found that strengthening community forest rights mitigates climate change: