The actors

i) Vanen

The Greater bird of paradise (Paradisea apoda) is certainly the most emblematic representative of the Paradisaeidae family. It is one of the first species to reach Europe in the 16th century and the first one to be described scientifically. The species’ corpses were brought in by the great explorers.  Local custom held that the legs should be cut off before selling them to the Europeans, which lead to the belief in the West that these birds were legless. Furthermore, the legend said that these “Birds of God” could never cease flying, even to sleep, lived on dew and fresh air, did not even have entrails, and mated, laid their eggs and even sat on them whilst in flight. And when they died, they simply fell to the ground: That is how they would find their corpses... In his Natural History, Buffon regards all this as, “a pack of gross errors!” Legends, however, were tenacious, and mistaken beliefs well rooted: In 1758, in his classification of the Greater bird of paradise, Linné was influenced by these beliefs and named it a footless bird, descended from heaven, a divine creature: Paradisea apoda.

Paradisea apoda is a fruit and insect eating bird, the shape of a crow, magnifying its size when on display. P. apoda is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The subspecies found in the Aru Islands is considered to be more colourful than the one found in the southern coasts of Papuasia. Three other species of Paradisaeidae live in the Aru Archipelago, amongst them the King bird of paradise, locally known as gobi-gobi, the male displaying a brilliant red plumage.  Paradisea apoda is a wild bird, not easy to observe its displays close up. The smallest of details or the slightest noise and they will take flight to another lek.

In the Manumbai dialect spoken at Wakua, the Greater bird of paradise is known as vanen (the “v” is pronounced “f”).  Depending on the age, however, males have different names: gul-vanen when the bird’s head is yellow, vanen-rukai when a few short coloured plumes appear and vanen-loblobai when, having reached adulthood, the bird exhibits its long and magnificent display.  Females are known as vanen-gasira, gasira meaning grandmother.

ii) The Mangar clan

One day God made the clouds disperse, opened the sky and from there descended a man. His family name was Mangar, meaning “sky” in the Manumbai dialect. After engendering a line of descendants, building the village of Wakua, and spreading the divine words throughout the Aru Islands, he journeyed throughout the world for the same purpose, promising to return to the village some day. Since then, generation after generation awaits his return to Wakua. And, according to many elders, some signals seem to announce his imminent arrival...

The Mangar clan considers itself by default the oldest and most influential clan of the Archipelago.  They possess the land where Wakua is located, the village of their origin having been abandoned for more than a century on the edges of the river Koka. Other families argue with the Mangars for the rights to the land, and regular quarrels stir up the village (made up of 1200 inhabitants) practically split in two.

It is actually in the forest belonging to the Mangar clan where the birds of paradise are observed and followed. Throughout the journey, Loïc Degen has developed a true friendship and involvement with certain members of the Mangar clan, particularly with Gabi and his family.  Without Gabi the project would not have been possible, nor would it have been so enjoyable. He has become a true friend. His determination has made the Mangar clan open up and accept the presence of a foreigner. There came a time when on each trip they would share a new story or legend with him, and thus each trip has woven a new bond. The unquestionable actors of this adventure are Tete Jenggot, an undoubted senior thinker of Wakua; Bapak Ica, storyteller, and philosopher of life; Bapak Eli, who over 60 years old, climbs trees without effort; Bapak Manu and Bapak Emi, honest and kind like nobody else can be; Berti, a brute with a gentle heart, and Gabi, insatiable forest explorer and intimate friend. Without them, there would be no project.


"mutiara, legend of a pearl" now in DVD!
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All you ever wanted to know about VilbrekPrOd third movie!

"Vanen, Plumes from Paradise", Best pedagogical documentary award, Festival du film ornithologique de Ménigoute (Press release (in French))

Vanen on DVD it'sFilm 52min, Bonus 20min, 4 languages (FR, ENG, NL, DE (untertitelt)),
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