My Year with the Tribe

will millard

My Year with the Tribe

My Year with the Tribe – Humidity and Humility in the Tropics

Presented by writer and adventurer Will Millard, the new BBC documentary series My Year with the Tribe takes an in-depth look at the Korowai tribe of West Papua, who are recognised as one of the last remaining examples of primitive human culture.

Since they were discovered in the 1970s, the Korowai have been the subject of many documentaries – which was no small source of anxiety for Millard, who knew his series would have to push the envelope to stand out from the crowd. His four-part adventure takes place over the course of a year and examines how the Korowai have adapted to the encroachment of the modern world. His experiences with the tribe ended up delving much deeper than their stone-age traditions and hunting practices, and into some uncomfortable (and often surprisingly funny) territory.

As is the case with many productions filmed in remote and extreme environments, the Keo Films crew looked to 1st Option for support with planning, risk assessment, training and equipment.  Jim Allen and Chris Holding, two of our most experienced remote and high risk advisers, helped the production team identify what they needed to do before and during their time in West Papua, and worked with them to prepare contingency plans in case things should go wrong.

The remote and humid nature of the Korowai’s deep jungle home presented a number of exceptional risks and challenges. Jim advised the team on preparations for their long off-road treks in the oppressive humidity, which can lead to heatstroke or worse for the uninitiated; as well as the dangers of exotic and unpredictable wildlife.  Jim also recommended a suite of inoculations for the team to prevent against tropical diseases, which can often cripple a production and cause severe delays – not to mention heavy personal health costs.

This particular programme also brought with it the unusual factor of contacting an isolated tribe who may not respond kindly to outsiders. Fortunately, the Korowai were largely welcoming to the visitors, and with the aid of an experienced team of local guides and translators, the production was achieved largely as planned although it was not without its incidents and surprises as the series shows.

With filming taking place over the course of a full year, this was a truly collaborative effort between the 1st Option team, Keo Films and Will Millard resulting in a unique documentary of this disappearing remote community.

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Zoe Compton