A Time To Swim
Directed by Ashley Duong
“What happens when a man returns home after a 20-year political exile? A story of how frustration yields to a reluctant understanding that change happens even after you’re gone.” – Jeremy Gaudette, Features Programming Committee
Ashley Duong in attendance!
Mutang Urud left his home in Sarawak on the Isle of Borneo in Malaysia more than two decades ago after his environmental and political activism got him into hot water with the government. Living in exile in Montreal, Canada all these years, his longing to return and the dire urgency to document village life before the elder generation dies off ignite this fabulous and inspirational documentary by director Ashley Duong.
Along with his Canadian family, wife Natasha, young son Agan, and his teen daughter, Noeli (who lends an air of youthful, informed optimism as the film’s narrator), Mutang returns as a “cultural researcher” with the knowledge that any overt political activity would send the authorities back on his trail. A grandson of the chief of the Kelabit people and leader of Long Napir Village, he left in 1992 after his work as an activist leading the blockades against government sanctioned deforestation in his home territories made headlines and embarrassed de facto government forces involved.
Going back and forth between these two “homes,” we witness Mutang the global citizen and see how truly “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” as he and his activist-wife naturally reinforce a culture of social justice and community service around their children. This attempt to past the torch over to the next generation, in fact, characterizes the heart of Mutang’s present activist work as we see him going about Long Napir with recording equipment in hand, interviewing all the elders—all part of his extended family by blood—and frustratingly, at times, trying to galvanize the younger generation to be pro-active in their community. The drama escalates when his cousin, Morris, a US-trained civil engineer, leads a development project funded by the Chinese, to take over their remaining lands under the auspices of a logging contract promising new jobs to the region.
Whether with his family in tow or in the company of elders or youngsters, Mutang guides us with a bird’s eye view through the verdant, still pristine forest lands by foot or through rugged waves by riverboat, and shows us just why this original beauty must be safeguarded at all costs.
— Lindy Leong
Ashley Duong is a Montreal-based filmmaker and multimedia storyteller, who works to amplify marginalized voices by telling meaningful stories in fresh ways. A TIME TO SWIM is her feature-length directorial debut. She has also recently directed LAND AND LEGENDS, an interactive podcast about the connection between the landscapes and myths of the Kelabit. Currently, she is creating a digital short about Chinese shadow puppetry, and a dance film about women in sports.
Producers: Ashley Duong, Katarina Soukup
Director: Ashley Duong
Cinematographer: Vincent Gonneville
Music: Olivier Alary
Editor: Hannele Halm