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An underwater documentary about the last days of the Borneo Sea Nomads and their unique bond with the ocean.
An underwater documentary about the last days of the Borneo Sea Nomads and their unique bond with the ocean.
143 backers pledged £12,030 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Dear All,

We would like to invite you to participate in our campaign, which aims to raise funds needed to complete the post-production work of an extraordinary documentary, "On the Sea with Badjao".

After two years of preparation and many months of filming in Borneo, we can proudly say that we are in possession of not only breath-taking footage, shot by our cinematographer, Piotr Rosolowski , whose two previous documentaries were nominated for an OSCAR, and amazing underwater shots. But most importantly, we have a beautiful and dramatic story of a man who risks his life every day to survive and preserve the traditions of his ancestors.

Badjao people are used to living like fish, spending most of their lives in the water. Their children learn to swim faster than they do to walk, and adults have mastered to perfection the art of free-diving. They can walk and hunt on the seabed holding their breath for five minutes and their eyes are adapted to focus underwater. After stepping on to land many of them suffer from “land sickness”. The Badjao are connected with the sea more intimately than any other culture in the world.

In aiming to land a decent catch the protagonists of our film dive so deep that they frequently venture to the very limits of human potential. Deep water fishing not only allows them to survive another day, but also escape into a beautiful underwater world, where they feel like the kings of the sea and can forget about the problems and rejection waiting for them on the surface.

Fot. David Kaszlikowski
Fot. David Kaszlikowski

Unfortunately the days of the Badjao people who live in close harmony with the sea and posses incredible diving skills are numbered, and we share responsibility for the tragic fate that our civilization has prepared for them!

We have come up with some cool rewards for your pledge (from professional pictures from the set to a trip to Borneo, where we introduce you to the wonderful world of Badjao), however most of all, this campaign is to enable us to complete this film as we deeply believe that this story deserves to be brought out to the world!

Only with your help can we finish this film. We hope that thanks to this film Badjao people will be forever seen as the masters of the sea rather than street beggars of Borneo. Our dream is to show this film worldwide to as many people as is possible and then who knows…maybe the fate of the Badjao hasn’t been sealed yet!

Fot. David Kaszlikowski
Fot. David Kaszlikowski

HOW DID IT ALL START?

We have been incubating this project for almost two years and it all began by coincidence, or fate, as we like to call it.

Eliza Kubarska, our director is a person of many passions. As an adventure filmmaker and a professional climber she went to Borneo in search of new film material and climbing challenges. Surprisingly instead of finding a new wall to scale, she found a new passion: scuba-diving.

But not everything in Borneo was so enchanting as its underwater world. When she arrived at the coastal towns in the Malaysian part of Borneo, she was struck by the overwhelming contrast surrounding the place. On the one hand she was faced with tropical islands and turquoise seas – some of the most beautiful natural features in the world; on the other hand she was confronted with the filthy slums of the town, drowning in garbage and overrun with rats. Luxurious tourist resorts juxtaposing the sprawling stilt villages over the water on the outskirts of the town. As you may be guessing by now, the residents of the villages over the water were nobody else but the Badjao.

It wasn't Eliza's original plan to meet the Badjao... yet one day she met Alexan and his family. They spent the next two weeks together on the sea between the islands. She shared their meals, ate their food with hands and began to learn how to free-dive.

Eliza for the first time felt like she was really a part of nature, yet she didn't want to keep the Badjao just for herself, and this is when she decided that she wanted to make a film about these exceptional people – to share the story of the Borneo Sea Nomads with the rest of the world.

Eliza at her office.
Eliza at her office.

WHAT IS THIS FILM ABOUT?

This is a coming of age story about a boy and his friendship with a tired fisherman who wants to pass on his skills, because he can not come to terms with the idea that the world as he knows it and that of his ancestors is about to end.

The story of the struggle with the sea, its dangers, its ebb and flow, is a metaphor for the history of life, in which nothing is fixed.

Alexan and Sari at work.
Alexan and Sari at work.

Alexan, the last Badjao compressor diver on his island and his 10 year-old student Sari set out to sea. Alexan teaches Sari dangerous fishing techniques and shares with him his wisdom and a lifetime experience as a Badjao. He always reminds him that “when you dive make sure you do not exceed the limit of risk, even at the cost of lost fishing. As long as you live you always have a chance for a good catch. When you die, you will catch nothing...”

Alexan cannot be reconciled with the idea that the world of Badjao disappears. Along the way, they discover legends of the underwater people, who die out as a result of a collision with the Western civilization.

The home of Alexan and Sari is a tiny island Mabul - in recent years, known as one of the best diving spots in the world. In the middle of it, with only a small access to the sea, surrounded by tourist resorts, the Badjao village is trapped. Once, only Badjao lived on this Island. Unfortunately now, these ancient masters of the sea are being pushed to the edge of extinction by the changing forces of the modern world.

Will Sari become a compressor diver or will he use new opportunities that Westeners bring to his little island? Hopefully, you will soon find out!

Alexan, a compressor diver. Fot.David Kaszlikowski
Alexan, a compressor diver. Fot.David Kaszlikowski

WHAT WE NEED YOUR HELP WITH?

We urgently need to raise £12,000, which is an absolute minimum in order for us to finish post-production of the film.

. YOUR money will go towards:

  • Editing – we have tones (many Gigabytes) of breath-taking footage. It has been shot over two years with changing technology (we always aimed at the top HD quality) but the process of utilizing this material is time consuming, challenging and costly. We have employed an award winning editor for the job. His gift of creative story telling will certainly pay off.

  • Music composition and sound design - we aim to create a great epic story for the cinema, so we would like to commission an original score for the film.

  • Colour correcting and special effects – we want to ensure that the potential of our incredible footage (including the most beautiful underwater shots) will be maximised.

Alexan - a king of  underwater kingdom. Fot. David Kaszlikowski
Alexan - a king of underwater kingdom. Fot. David Kaszlikowski

WHO WE ARE?

Eliza Kubarska – director, Vertical Vision Film Studio

Eliza specialises in adventure filmmaking and extreme location work. She is a well-known Polish alpinist and traveller. In 2010 she made her first feature documentary “What happened on Pam Island (aka Mountain Love Story)“, that won many prestigious awards. Apart from “On the Sea with Badjao“ she is going to direct another documentary „The Baltoro Passage“, which is currently in development. 

“I've become a filmmaker to tell unusual stories about ordinary and unordinary people”

Eliza and Monika on the set. Fot. Maciej Gorski
Eliza and Monika on the set. Fot. Maciej Gorski

Monika Braid – producer, Braidmade Films

Monika is an independent film producer, who works on fiction and documentary films with international production companies and broadcasters. Born in Cracow/Poland, she has lived in the UK since 1995.  In 2006 she set up her own company Braidmade Films. Her recent credits include BBC documentary productions: A Sikh’s Journey Home, 2008, Mind the Gap, 2010, (a PL/UK co-production, distributed by DR International Sales), Wojtek – the Bear that Went to War, 2011 and Dad Went Fishing, 2011.

I’m a producer because I love working with different people – and I love making films that tell other people’s stories’

Piotr Rosołowski- cinematographer

An Oscar nominee, Piotr is a Graduate of the Cinematography department from the University of Slask in Katowice and scholarship holder of the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. From 2002 he has worked as an independent cinematographer in Poland, Germany, and Switzerland. He was the chief cinematographer for the film short "Auf der Strecke"/ "On the Line" that was nominated for an Oscar in 2008. In 2010 his other film „Rabbit a la Berlin“, which he co-wrote and shot was also nominated for an Oscar.

Piotr filming on the boat.
Piotr filming on the boat.

HOW DOES KICKSTARTER WORK?

Just choose your donation level and rewards you would like to receive and donate by entering payment information. It’s that easy! Remember if our project does not reach its funding goal, your card is never charged! If you choose a reward that requires shipping (many do), be sure to leave your address. We’ll be in touch!

Risks and challenges

We are very happy to make this film independently, so we can focus on things that are really important to us, however financing a project like this is always challenging. Having filmed for almost two years, the amount and variety of the footage is indeed a challenge for the edit! But we are committed to finishing ON THE SEA WITH BADJAO in a timely manner. This is why we’re asking for your help.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £2 or more About $3.07

    Grannie Kuya (Alexan’s mother) will say a BADJAO PRAYER in your intention. This summer you can swim safely anywhere you want (but the condition is that you spread the word about us ; ).

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    Pledge £5 or more About $8

    Become a HONORARY BADJAO and receive our heartfelt appreciation on our Facebook fan page. Facebook it. Tweet it. Tell about it and share it with all of your friends!

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge £10 or more About $15

    In addition to receiving a thank you note on our FaceBook fan page, we will send you a 3-PACK OF OUR DOWNLOADABLE WALLPAPER IMAGES of photos taken underwater with the Badjao…

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    Pledge £20 or more About $31

    BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO WATCH THE TV VERSION OF THE FILM (43 min.)! You'll receive a PERSONALIZED LINK to stream our documentary in HD, in addition to the rewards listed above.

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    Pledge £30 or more About $46

    BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO WATCH THE FEATURE VERSION OF THE FILM! You'll receive a PERSONALIZED LINK to stream our documentary in HD with a 6 pack of our favourite DOWNLOADABLE WALLPAPER IMAGES of photos taken in Borneo PLUS a specially created RING-TONE! for you mobile with Alexan’s song BOLA BOLA.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge £50 or more About $77

    Limited edition of THREE 8X10 PRINTED PHOTOS of the best images taken during the filming by an internationally awarded photographer, DVD of the film PLUS the rewards above.

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    Pledge £100 or more About $154

    YOUR NAME ON THE BIG SCREEN! A thank you in the credits of our film PLUS all the prizes above PLUS a COMPRESSOR DIVING VIRTUAL CRASH COURSE DOWNLOAD by our diving master ALEXAN.

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    Pledge £100 or more About $154

    YOUR NAME ON THE BIG SCREEN! A thank you in the credits of our film PLUS all the prizes above PLUS a BADAJO LUNCH BOX (freshly cooked by our producers, send to you by a courier – the offer only for those London based)

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    Pledge £250 or more About $384

    You will receive a PRIVATE SCREENING of the film at your home, event, school or organization with a Q & A session (Skype or in-person, depending on location of event) PLUS the rewards above.

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge £400 or more About $614

    TAILOR MADE MASTERCLASS with our cinematographer PIOTR ROSOLOWSKI! Meet Piotr in Berlin or in Warsaw and learn about the specific documentary work in faraway locations. Created for individuals and groups.

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    Pledge £500 or more About $768

    Get Your company LOGO in credits!!! Receive a Blu ray of specially assembled UNDERWATER FOOTAGE from the most famous sea-life on Sipadan Island PLUS ALL awards above and Grannie Kuya will sing a song about you.

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    Pledge £500 or more About $768

    Get a climbing class with ELIZA either in London or in Warsaw! While climbing you can discuss film-making or the film with her PLUS the rewards above

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    Pledge £1,500 or more About $2,304

    Be our GUEST OF HONOUR at our premier and celebrate with our amazing crew, Your company logo in credits PLUS the awards above.

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    Pledge £2,500 or more About $3,840

    Become an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER of the film PLUS the awards above.

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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge £5,000 or more About $7,680

    PROBABLY THE MOST EXCITING KICKSTARTER REWARD EVER! A trip to Borneo !!!!!! Come to Borneo and meet the Badjao yourself, learn free-diving (safely), meet our protagonists and for a moment become part of the sea! (we pay for your flight during the dates agreed between us, we don't pay for your hotel but we can organize your stay) PLUS a SIPADAN ISLAND PERMIT for one day so you can experience the most famous coral reef island with its incredibly reach marine life and the best diving spot in the world.

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Funding period

- (30 days)