Under fire

Against-all odds documentary provides a hero for a new age

The Burning Season
Studio: Freshwater Pictures
Cast: Cathy Henkel
Director: Cathy Henkel
WorkNameSort: Burning Season, The
Our Rating: 5.00

You haven't seen the protagonist from Cathy Henkel's documentary The Burning Season on the Time 100 or in Esquire's Genius Issue yet, but give it some time.

Twenty-nine years old and full of smarts, spunk and smiles, Australian entrepreneur Dorjee Sun has the personality of a Washington, D.C., up-and-comer and the willpower of the Merrill Lynch bull. Sun knows well the devastating deforestation plaguing Indonesia and its deadly effect on native wildlife, such as the orangutan. The damage is from deliberately set forest fires, used to clear the land to plant palm trees and produce palm oil. He believes he can put a stop to the practice, save the orangutans, save the Earth and make lots of money in the process, while providing new, green jobs for the villagers. Everybody wins, right?

In this fast-paced, exciting documentary, we follow Sun's journey from small-time mover and shaker, organizing an already unlikely commitment from Indonesia's primary governors and the World Bank, into globe-hopping environmentalist. His months-long process courting skittish investors, blank-faced leaders (including the Bush-appointed World Bank Group president Paul Wolfowitz) and progressive CEOs from Starbucks, eBay and others underscores his effort to get a carbon-trading movement off the ground.

One problem for Sun: Forest protection was not, at the time, a part of the Kyoto Protocol. So he takes on nothing less than the task of getting it on the books at the 2007 Bali convention on climate change, which was attended by virtually every nation in the world except the United States.

Aside from possibly The Cove (and barring Michael Moore's upcoming Capitalism: A Love Story), there has not been a brisker, more entertaining doc seen in these parts this year. The Burning Season is more than a message picture; it's an adventure.

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