Into the Heart of Borneo What is a New Zealand photographer doing with a documentary film crew in a longboat in the wilderness in Borneo? David Metcalf is passionate about the Dayak people of Borneo (Kalimantan) and has spent years exploring the outer reaches of one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes on the planet. His dream of making a documentary film was motivated by his association with the Dayak people.

David Metcalf wanted to record the Dayak elders in their pristine rainforest environment and at the same time send a message to the international community about preserving ancient ways and raising awareness about these native people that live in the Kalimantan forests. Their environment is shrinking so the need to record on film the uniqueness of these gentle people and their strong culture, was the motivation behind this film.

A crew of fourteen men took to the rapids, including a film crew with cameras and sound gear and traversed the jungle into the heart of Borneo. The journey involved dangerous raging river rapids and extreme challenges on the Kayan and Bahou Rivers to Long Saan, Kalimantan. The filming is now complete and their movie is due for release in mid 2015.

David led this expedition with six Kenyah Dayaks from Setulang Village in North Kalimantan to a place called Long Saan. The journey was first envisioned via a conversation with one of the tribal Dayak elders, Pilius, who expressed his desire to return to his original village deep in the forest. He left his village in 1969.

Into the Heart of BorneoPilius was a young boy when he left his original birthplace 44 years ago. A village decision was made to move from the forest to Setulang Village, a journey that took about four weeks across rugged wilderness, to improve the educational and health care opportunities of the villagers. All his life, Pilius has longed to return home to his spiritual heartland and visit the burial grounds of his ancestors.

When Pilius met David, he told him of his dream. It was at that point that David decided to make Pilius’ dream come true and the idea to make the film was born.

Earlier this year, a chance meeting with a Lakota Sioux man, Kevin Locke, brought about a new development. David saw the cultural connection between Native American and Dayaks from Kalimantan, through their music, costume, dance and shared tribal wisdoms. He invited Kevin Locke (from South Dakota) on the Long Saan journey to record the many similarities these two cultures share, even though they are thousands of miles apart and live in two very different continents.

Into the Heart of Borneo“On the journey we had people representing seven different countries. This journey’s mission was to connect cultures through dance, song, art and ancient wisdom. I believe through creating a wider expression and voice for indigenous cultures globally, we can find common ground through ancestral prayers, cultural exchanges and a sharing of knowledge.”

In addition to the making of a documentary film, a beautiful coffee table book on Borneo with David’s spectacular photography was released at the Ubud Writers Festival (Bali, Indonesia) in October 2014. The book is a collaboration between three artists’ work and is a stunning bookshelf piece on Borneo’s wildlife, native people and the beautiful forest environment.

Two documentary film trailers have now been released. You can view trailer one and two at, and

David is seeking funding for stage two, which is for distribution and international film festival representation. Please help if you can, as this project moves to its final stages and needs a little assistance.

Into the Heart of BorneoRead about the filmmaker, the team and the vision and please support the making of this cultural film by viewing the website
Please ‘follow’ the Long Saan Kenyah Dayak journey thejourneyback

Mark Heyward, David Metcalf and Khan Wilson Creatavision Publishing Pty Ltd ISBN 978-0-9923736-1-0 Hardback 166 full colour pages, bonus CD, limited edition
Available direct from the publisher
Price: NZD$60 plus postage

Two charities initiated by David Metcalf:
Ransel Buku is a grassroots programme providing environmental, health and cultural education to Dayak children in Central Borneo.
Darung Tingang Dayak Dance Studio is a new cultural program in Pelangkaraya, Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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