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By Ondi Timoner | April 9, 2014

Song from the Forest explores the Bayaka Pygmies of Central African Republic, and the intense fascination it inspired in Louis Sarno, who traveled to the Bayaka and never came back. Filmmakers Michael Obert and Alex Tondowski share their documentary with BYOD with trailer footage and more on BYOD live from the 2014 SXSW Festival.

Watch new episodes of BYOD live each week on Tuesdays at noon on TheLip.TV, or tune in for the archived replay starting here on the following Thursday.

BYOD is hosted by Ondi Timoner, director of “DIG!,” “JOIN US” and “WE LIVE IN PUBLIC,” and has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance twice. Each week the show explores a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking, with special guests and a live Q&A– diving deep into creative process and the business realities of producing and distributing films. Ondi shares her insider views, opinions, and personal stories, welcoming audience participation. BYOD aims to entertain, inform, and elevate documentaries in general by bringing attention to films and film makers that deserve exposure.

Michael Obert (Director) and Alex Tondowski (producer) – SONG FROM THE FOREST

Song From The Forest documents the life of the US citizen Louis Sarno who has lived with the Bayaka pygmies in the Central African jungle for the past 25 years. When Louis leaves with his son by his Bayaka wife Samedi for a journey to New York City, his seemingly utopian world goes off kilter. In a moving epic, Michael Obert sensitively draws the portrait of an exceptional person between two cultures, between giant forest trees and skyscrapers.

As a young man, US-born Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio that never let him out of its grasp. He followed the mysterious sounds back to the Central African rainforest, found his music with the Bayaka pygmies – and never came back. Today, 25 years later, Louis is a full member of this community of hunters and gatherers.

Louis has a son with a Bayaka woman, 13-year-old Samedi. As a baby, Samedi became seriously sick. As he lay dying, Louis held him the whole night and promised him: “If you survive, one day I will show you the world from which I came.” Now it is time to keep his promise, and so Louis travels with his son from the African rainforest to a different jungle made of concrete, glass and asphalt – to New York City.

Soon after their arrival, there is a first surprise: Samedi, who had never left the rainforest and does not speak a word of English is far more comfortable with the US than Louis. The rapprochement with the world that his father wanted to forget and that his son now wants to conquer is slow, quiet and not free from setbacks. Joined by the contrast between the rainforest and the urban US, the unequal couple grows ever closer on the road.

Song From The Forest narrates their victories, but also their defeats in a modern epic in which the shared journey of father and son steers towards a surprising reversal of roles and gives the viewer an intimation that the African rainforest and urban America, these apparently separated worlds, are not all that separate after all.

Michael Obert (director), born in 1966 in Breisach on the Rhine, is an award-winning German book author and journalist writing mostly about Africa and the Middle East. His literary journalism appears among others in Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, DIE ZEIT and ZEIT Magazin, GEO, Vogue, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and many other prestigious periodicals in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Michael Obert became known to a large public through his bestseller Regenzauber about his seven month journey from the Niger’s source to its delta. For more than 20 years, Obert has traveled some of the most remote parts of the world, forgotten paradises as well as regions in crisis or war. Obert currently lives in Berlin. Song From The Forest is his first film. )

Alex Tondowski started out as a stage actor in the 1980s in Paris, London, and New York. Following his childhood dream of Hollywood, he continued his career as a screen actor in Los Angeles and won roles in many television series, commercials, and films until his desire to return to Europe was too strong to resist. Shortly after his arrival in Berlin he founded Tondowski Films with his wife, Ira. Their goal is to support visionary directors to help them realise their ideas. “The story of Louis and his son is one that you dream of having the opportunity to make.

00:01 Introducing Michael Obert and Alex Tondowski of SONG FROM THE FOREST.
01:07 Finding the story of Louis Sarno and going to the Bayaka.
03:52 Leaving the western world and moving to the jungle.
06:14 Teaming up and deciding to shoot the film.
13:10 Difficulties in the Central African Republic and Congo.
18:59 SONG FROM THE FOREST, Trailer.


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