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The Guardian of Kinabalu was co-produced by Wiebke Finkler, from the department of tourism, and Lloyd Spencer Davis, from the Centre for Science Communication, and is about Mt Kinabalu, the centrepiece of a national park in Borneo which is the most biologically diverse place on Earth.
The film covers themes of myth, culture, conservation and tourism, and was recently awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 11th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival. Prof Davis said he and Dr Finkler, who made the film in collaboration with the University College Sabah Foundation in Borneo, and the university’s former vice-chancellor Prof Ismail Ghazally, were "really chuffed".
The film follows park ranger Alim Biun, who has devoted his life to the park, studying the plants and animals there over 40 years, and it also focuses on an incident in 2015 when an earthquake killed 18 climbers. The quake occurred after a group of tourists undressed on the mountain.
Many of the local Kadazan-Dusun people believed such disrespectful behaviour had angered the spirits of the mountain — where they believed their souls went when they died — and four of the tourists were arrested.
"It put into stark contrast the kind of Western views of a place, versus the local and spiritual beliefs that are attached to it," Prof Davis said.
Karsten Schneider, of Dunedin’s BurningFish Productions, animated Kadazan-Dusun legends that are integrated into the film.
Leyton Glen, of Dunedin, composed the music and produced the soundtrack. Dunedin actor Brian Beresford was the narrator and the colour grading was carried out by St Leonards film-maker Phil Davison.
Centre for Science Communications staff member Robert Brown was the main cameraman, and Dr Finkler and Prof Davis also contributed to the camera work. The New Zealand premiere of The Guardian of Kinabalu will be at the university on November 16.