For their birthday, some choose to indulge in a multi-course dinner, then a movie. But for his 70th birthday, Henry (a.k.a. Hank) Cole, Ph.D. treated himself to a different kind of course– at the New York Film Academy– which he hopes will also lead to a movie.
Cole is an environmental scientist and writer with more than 35 years of experience as an advocate for communities, the environment and ecosystems.
At 70 years young, Cole thought he wanted to be an actor, so he decided to give the New York Film Academy a try. It turns out, that decision has lead him down a different professional path—filmmaking.
Here’s what happened: During one of his class exercises at the Academy, Cole had to put together a short scene, so he decided to base it on a wise elderly shaman and a young impulsive protégé who were traveling together in a canoe down a rainforest river.
Cole is deeply concerned about the war being waged against indigenous peoples around the world at the hands of big oil, agribusiness, mining and other corporate interests.
Weeks after the class, he kept thinking about that scene. He knew he had to write a story—no, why not a movie?! Yeah. A fictional account of an indigenous tribe and a young shaman’s coming of age.
A vision was born – an idea for a movie – that uses drama, suspense, and romance to bring a critical message to audiences.
So that’s what Cole is working on– A movie called Manama, a Shaman’s Journey, in which a young shaman fights corruption, big money and evil magic to save his tribe’s Amazon rainforest home.
With the first screenplay draft already complete, the plan now is to develop a second version that incorporates input from an indigenous community.
Cole has chosen to focus on the Kichwa community in Sarayaku, Ecuador because they are similar to the one in his screenplay.
About the community, Cole’s says, “The Sarayaku community can teach us all a great deal about the essence of community and human dignity, things we in the “civilized world” seem to be losing.”
Cole will be collaborating on Manama, a Shaman’s Journey with Monica Lee Bellais who has worked with major studios including James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment (development of Avatar), DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, and Discovery Channel.
When can we expect this film to hit the big screen? That will depend on the ability to attract sufficient funding for the development and production of the movie.
Cole created a crowdfunding page to help transform his vision into a reality. Here’s his message to potential supporters:
“Next week I’ll be in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador visiting with the Kichwa Sarayaku indigenous people.
I expect to learn a great deal from the Sarayaku; they have struggled with great success to protect their lands and lives from the ravages of oil. My greatest hope would be to involve the Sarayaku in the movie project. The community has a history of producing award-wining documentaries.
I need your help! I just launched this Indiegogo Campaign to raise seed money to take the project to the development phase. My goal is to raise $12,000 in the next 40 days. Please contribute what you are able. Everyone who makes any contribution can receive updates as well as the movie’s storyboard.”
So Hank Cole is off to the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. Here’s what he had to say about his upcoming trip:
“Thanks to Yury Guerra and Malia Everette of Altruvistas, this month I will spend several weeks in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest as a guest of the Kichwa indigenous community in Sarayaku. The purpose of the trip is to experience first hand the lives of the Sarayaku people and their efforts to preserve their community and forest territories. The goal is to build authenticity into the movie and to discuss their possible involvement in the film’s production. My dream is to draw members of the community, of all ages, into the movie to help shape the narrative as writers, actors and producers.”
- Support the making of Manama, a Shaman’s Journey by visiting the Indiegogo Campaign.
- To follow the film’s progress: “Like” Manawa: A Shaman’s Journey to the Big Screen on Facebook.
- Plan Your Next Travel Adventure with Altruvistas, like Cole did: Our Customized Altruvistas Journeys offer an alternative form of educational travel, exclusively tailored to the particular interests of you and your group. You can find information about our customized tours here.
Main Photo Credit: Caroline Bennett