Premiered at Byron Bay Film Festival, Australia, Planet Fungi- North East India has been cited for official selection for the 8th Mumbai Shorts International Film Festival. The documentary was also selected for the Druk International Film Festival in Bhutan and is in competition for the Golden Dragon Awards next year. The screening will be held on 8th December at Residency Hotel, Mumbai.
In 2018 Balipara Foundation, an NGO based in Assam, working towards nature conservation, livelihood and community development in the Eastern Himalayas, embarked on a journey which started the important task of documenting the fungi in the forests of the Eastern Himalayas and to do this the Foundation co-opted the help of internationally acclaimed fungi photographer Stephen Axford. Part travelogue, part exploration of a new frontier of scientific discovery, part immersion in the tribal cultures of the Eastern Himalayas all combined with Stephen Axford’s exquisite photography and fungi time-lapses shaped the wonderful fungi documentary Planet Fungi- North East India. The documentary was written and directed by Catherine Marciniak who is senior features reporter with ABC North Coast, Australia.
Stephen’s images of mushrooms have been featured in leading science and nature magazines across the globe. His exquisite time-lapses of fungi growing are showcased in the award-winning documentaries Planet earth 2, Hostile Planet, Our Planet, The Kingdom – how fungi made the earth, and now in – ‘Planet Fungi – Northeast India’.
The Kingdom of Fungi is one of the largest kingdoms of life on the planet, with an estimated four to five million species. However, to date scientists have only described about 200,000 of them. Yet fungi are a vital part of the ecosystem and most people don’t realize that without fungi there would be no forests. In this documentary, Stephen Axford and Catherine Marciniak are in north east India at the invitation of the Balipara Foundation. One of their projects is mapping the biodiversity of the forests of the Eastern Himalayas and they’ve just added fungi to the list.
‘With this film, we want to change how people see fungi, to understand them as an essential part of not just the web of life, but our bi-cultural heritage too – especially in the Eastern Himalayas, with its rich biodiversity. But if we want to preserve biodiversity for our future, for our forests and our well being, we need to act now and act at scale. This is what this film is really about, a call to action for our future and our natural assets’, said Ranjit Barthakur, President and Founder, Balipara Foundation, Ranjit Barthakur and Prabir Banerjea, Co- Founder, Balipara Foundation are the Associate Producers of the short film. The real heroes and experts of Planet Fungi – North East India are the tribal people who have lived on the edge of the forest fringe for generations.
They took the audience on a journey into the extraordinary, beautiful and sometimes bizarre world of fungi. They share their knowledge of the fungi that kills, the fungi they eat, the fungi that is used for medicine and the fungi that is important to the other creatures of their jungle. In the process the crew meets the Jadav Payeng popularly known as the Forest Man of India who single-handedly planted over 500 hectares of jungle in Assam.
The documentary also covers Sacred Groves of Meghalaya, protected jungles that are a paradise for any botanist or mycologist. During the assessment Balipara Foundation discovers 34 species of fungi that are possibly new to science, including an extremely bright, luminous mushroom, which is very exciting. In Planet Fungi – North East India you’ll discover that world of mushrooms that is truly magical, and their variety and beauty will blow your mind