Mindaugas Survila spent eight years on his film The Ancient Woods, mapping places and wildlife in a forest for four years and shooting for four more. “I went to the ancient forest every day in my childhood. Later I went back, but the forest had already been cleared of trees. I wanted to express what an important place it was for me and decided that film would capture that best. I’m trying to tell people that a forest can have other values than monetary ones,” said the Lithuanian director, explaining the genesis of the film, which has been screened in the Docs section at Febiofest.
Survila first studied biology before he developed an interest in filmmaking. His documentary follows the life of a primeval forest at close quarters and without narration. “I deliberately avoided the style of classic nature documentaries.” He also picked up a camera himself, as he explained to viewers in Prague. “When birds were being observed I was in a tree and my colleague was under it, so that we’d catch everything. But we were filming quite far north, where night lasted for only an hour in the summer. So I had to spend 23 hours up a tree before I could come down, so I wouldn’t scare the birds away. And I couldn’t ask anybody else to do that.”
The film has been such a success in Lithuania that the makers used half of the revenues to set up a foundation that is buying the forest and preventing its clearance. Survila is also planning to create an interactive online platform where people can watch life in the forest.