Henry Appelton: MOVIE NIGHT!

Who does not enjoy a good nature documentary? Nobody! At least this is the case on Saturday nights at the project site of LAMAVE’s Bohol fisheries project. Every Saturday we erect our home-made screen and set up a projector to show a documentary to the local community and thank them for their kind assistance in our fieldwork. Documentary themes range from coral reefs and open oceans to forests or the Poles. We hope to inspire an appreciation of the environment and it’s an opportunity to broaden horizons by seeing far off locations and amazing species, providing an escape from typical daily life in a small fishing village.

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The operation begins with hoisting the screen into place and securing it against coastal winds and curious children. This is usually accomplished before word of our arrival has spread around the community. However, once one child sees activity there is often a rush of younger children, often some literally cartwheeling down the beach to see what the commotion is.

As we move into our fifth week of screening these documentaries we have now built up a relationship with some of the kids. These are the first to tap us on the back and run away and hide, throw us a small tire for a game of Frisbee, or take our hands and motion to be lifted in the air. Once the more confident kids have started the fun and games there is often a stream of shyer kids who also want to be swung around in the air or to join the game of Frisbee. It is great fun to participate in these games with the kids and very gratifying that they are so ready to engage with our team which is a mix of foreign ‘Americanos’ as we are known and of course, more local, Filipinos.

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Despite all the fun and games when dusk descends it is time for the documentary to begin, the kids settling down to see which weird and wonderful animals they can see this week, while many of the local adults will filter in, particularly the children’s parents, once this week’s installment has begun. When a hammerhead shark sweeps into view or a snow leopard stalks its prey along precipitous mountain ledges there are “ooooh’s” and “ahhh’s” from our audience and excited chatter about what a new species is and its local Bisaya name. It is fantastic to wait in anticipation for this reaction and see which species generates the most interest. To our surprise sometimes it is not the charismatic ‘megafauna’ that attract the most attention and curiosity, but scenes such as a dancing bird or a speeded-up sea slug.

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It is such a rewarding experience to hear their excitement and to reflect that we are showing them something that they may have never seen before. As the weeks go by our following appears to grow and there are more and more adults arriving. At first, it was limited to the parents of the children in attendance but now we have an ever-broadening spectrum of people attending each week, including three generations of the same family. I believe that one of the key factors in the success of our screenings has been engaging with the local children – by playing silly games, we have encouraged a healthier turn out for the documentary screenings and better relations with the local community.

Henry Appleton is an MSc graduate in Marine Environmental Management who completed three months fieldwork with LAMAVE’s Bohol team. His quoted passions in life include marine conservation, Oreos biscuits, reading FC and sunsets.

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