Even in this time of war and destruction, there is a need for signs of hope and future. That’s why today I’m reporting on “The Forest Maker” Toni Rinaudo and filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff.
“I firmly believe that with the right production methods, Africa could easily feed the world.” A bold statement? Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo doesn’t think so. He backs up his statement in the film. To an incredulous “Yes?!” he confidently replies, “Yes, of course!”
Tony Rinaudo received the Right Livelihood Award in 2018 for his work in Africa. There, he had discovered viable roots in the desert soil and for decades has been reforesting deforested and extremely dry regions by activating and nurturing those roots. Without planting a single tree.
Inspired by the “Alternative Nobel Prize” to the Australian, German director Volker Schlöndorff made a documentary about him, which he has now shown at the Zeise cinemas in the German northern city of Hamburg on its premiere tour of 44 cinemas. The Oscar-winning Schlöndorff (1979’s “The Tin Drum,” 1991’s “Homo Faber”), whom I know from my time as a cultural politician in the German Bundestag, was there himself.
PEOPLE MAKE EARTH FERTILE AGAIN
Tony Rinaudo is joyfully welcomed by the rural population in Niger, where he mainly works. The secret of his success is probably that he doesn’t come as a white man and put his solution in front of the inhabitants of the barren regions, but that he takes the people with him on the path to reforestation. It is his opinion that if it was people who turned entire areas of land into a supposed desert through deforestation, then people are needed to make them fertile again. So he shows the rural population how they have to prune the roots and shoots to make the trees grow again.
Now, 50,000 square kilometers of land in Niger alone have been re-vegetated with more than 200 million trees. Rinaudo’s work has started a movement to make the Sahel region fertile again. This is because the new trees provide shade, protect the soil from erosion, produce humus and make farming possible again.
WOMEN HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE
At the Right Livelihood Foundation in 2018, when we selected the laureates, we were equally impressed by the simplicity with which living in harmony with nature is once again possible, and by the tireless and positive commitment of Rinaudo, who has become a friend of the rural population. Volker Schlöndorff portrays both, and especially the important role of women, very atmospherically in his documentary.
Like Tony Rinaudo in his decades of work, Schlöndorff somehow fell into the lives of the people in Africa during three years of filming. Thus, the documentary about Rinaudo also becomes a documentary about joie de vivre, creative energy and international understanding. “I learned optimism,” says the director in an NDR interview on the occasion of the film’s premiere at Hamburg’s Zeise cinemas. The film is now showing in German cinemas.