About this project
Forests are the source of earth's lifeblood, fresh water.
Join me this winter on a journey to SAI Sanctuary to create a documentary film in the jungle heart of South India.
My name is Melissa Lesh. I am a documentary and educational filmmaker, recently graduated from Virginia Commonwealth university, and currently living in Richmond, Virginia. I was born in India 23 years ago and have been returning to travel, photograph, visit family, and volunteer every winter for most of my life. I have been making films for five years now, focusing on unique creatures and hidden places. I was recently selected for the Imagine Science Film Festival in NYC. You can view my work here.
With your help, this winter I will be traveling to the Western Ghats of South India to create a documentary film in the 300-acre wildlife oasis, SAI Sanctuary. I will be focusing on the importance of preserving wild places like SAI and documenting the trustees who have dedicated their lives to protecting the area.
I will be in India for 10 weeks - researching, filming, and crafting the story. Accompanying the film, the Jungle Water Project website will chart the journey through photographs, video shorts, and written works.
The Western Ghats mountain range is one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world. It is a World Heritage Site hugging the Arabian Sea, spanning 990 miles and covering 5 states. What was once a densely forested migration corridor for thousands of endemic species is now a receding and fragmented stretch of habitat. Today there are 325 globally threatened species within the Western Ghats.
Nestled within the Kodagu region of the Western Ghats, SAI Sanctuary is a non-profit organization working to protect and preserve the last remaining wild places on Earth. I will be living here to capture and tell the story.
The peace and survival of humanity depends on our ability to access and use fresh water. These tropical forests provide the subcontinent of South India with seasonal rains. The fresh water here feeds rivers throughout the watershed. Without forests, there is no rain, and without rain, there is no fresh water. Since 2008 I have been returning to the sanctuary to volunteer and discover the challenges facing the area. My goal is to provide this documentary as a resource to secure the regions forests and fresh water. I hope to empower landowners, villagers, government officials, and forest advocates to adopt sustainable land practices. Ultimately, I hope to secure a fresh water future for the Kodagu region and provide this film as an educational platform for communities here and around the world.
You will see many different backer rewards...
Your donation will make this project possible by providing:
- My stay in SAI Sanctuary & Kodagu region
- Local Transportation
- Equipment Purchases
- Marketing and Outreach
- Post Production and Editing costs
- Film Festival Submission Fees
Risks and challenges
One of the biggest risks for this project is filming in an uncontrollable environment, the jungle. Equipment can fail, get damaged, waterlogged, or lose energy. Wild animals can present challenges. I plan to bring multiple dry boxes, solar chargers, extra external hard drives, and other essential equipment as backups. Both Trustees at SAI sanctuary have provided me with the experience and knowledge of hiking through dense habitat. I have learned the necessary safety precautions when filming in close proximity to wildlife.
I also understand the challenges I may encounter when filming and conducting interviews within a community other than my own. Although I speak Hindi, the regional language Kannada may present a communication barrier. To address this I will be working closely with a Sanctuary Trustee who speaks Kannada and has strong relations with the locals surrounding SAI and throughout the region. I will be interacting and eating my daily meals with the local Pandit (the community spiritual teacher) and his family. I hope to strengthen personal bonds throughout the entirety of the project, gaining a heightened understanding of the regions concerns, challenges, perspectives, and goals.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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