Loweprofessional, Nikon Ambassador and Science Professor at Charles University in Prague, Petr Jan Juračka, often travels to remote locations to capture nature with his camera. His passion for life coupled with his blend of aerial video, nature, science, adventure and microphotography provide a unique point of view when photographing rare cultures in remote locations. Below, Petr Jan Juračka and Director/Producer, Petr Horký, take us through their latest adventure, documenting the indigenous Waoroni tribe of the Amazon tropical forest of Ecuador.
Petr Jan Juračka:
There are many types of adventures. Some are easygoing, quick, not too far from home. Some are a little bit more challenging, some dangerous. When Petr Horký called me about his upcoming project, I knew I wanted to take part in it.
Despite the fact it meant traveling across the globe, risking all my gear in extreme conditions and staying about a week without any connection with the world or with my family – Ecuador! The Amazonian tropical forest, the jungle! I really wanted to get down in the roots, to feel the atmosphere of the greatest jungle of the world, if even for a few days. I longed to become part of this remote, unpolluted and charming biome.
So, what did we go there to do? The story started in the Egypt two years ago, where Petr Horký (Documentary Director and Producer), Deli (Soundmaster), Ferda (First Camera) and me (Second Camera, grip and special shots) visited Abusir, a famous place in the middle of the desert, inhabited by humans thousands years ago. Nowadays, this place is an archaeologist’s paradise. We went there to make a short TV series about scientific research.
Shooting in Ecuador is… well, to be honest, it is heaven and hell at the same time! The jungle is so awesome, while the water still showers you and your gear. You have to be extremely careful and definitely trust your bags. If they let any drops of the water get in, you are done…
Our guide was well known professor Miroslav Bárta, the Director of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, one of the best in the world in this field. Miroslav and Petr met and talked many times after that, and decided to make a documentary about a strong topic – civilization and its future. Where are we going? What is going to happen to future generations? Is our civilization going to collapse soon?
Part of the crew left for Mexico, Guatemala and Easter Island in the beginning of the year and arrived in Ecuador afterwards. There, in the middle of the jungle, hundreds of kilometers from the villages, cities or roads, lives one large tribe, Waorani.
The story of this film started about twenty years ago when I was filming with Thor Heyerdahl, the famous Norwegian scientist and explorer, widely known for his KON-TIKI raft voyage in 1947. During the many interviews and meetings we managed until he passed away, we had been talking about future tasks for scientists. Something he said stuck in my mind like a nail: “There is one great challenge, one great question we have to answer. Every civilization in the history of humankind has a very similar scenario. Develop, culminate and disappear. But now that we have a global civilization, what will happen if our civilization collapses?”
This dialogue returned to me when we were filming with Professor Bárta on his archaeological excavations in Egypt in 2015. After several meetings, masala teas and shisha pipes, we began to work on a screenplay. What is the state of our civilization? Are we still developing or is our line already disappearing? (I’ll tell you something: Professor Bárta has enough scientific evidence that the beginning of collapse was almost the same in Inca, Maya, Rome, Egyptian or any other civilization. And there is a lot that is very similar to these scenarios in our contemporary life).
During more than twenty years of traveling and filming around the world, I collected pieces of a mosaic, which we have now started to put together. The life and the people around the world possess many surprising similarities, no matter who they are, where they are located or in which conditions they are living. So, when we started filming, I just picked some of my experiences, some of the most interesting places around the world – and I picked the best filmmakers I have had the opportunity to work with to be members of my crew.
I chose those who could stand some discomfort in exchange for very special experiences and meetings. That is why we are now in the Amazon and why I am now, at this moment, sitting on a wooden bench about fifty kilometres away from the uncontacted people, the Waoranis. These are a people who spear first and talk second. PJJ, what we call Petr, is with one of the Waoranis, on a boat somewhere on the river trying to film the kingfisher. “Bring some spears from the uncontacted!” I shouted at him instead of saying good luck. The Baomani family home is our basecamp for tonight.
Petr Jan Juračka:
So, what do I consider to be extreme conditions? 100% humidity with rain lasting for days. Traveling in the jungle has been possible by boat on the rivers and the water is everywhere, all the time. That is why we packed most of our gear into three Lowepro DryZone 200 AW bags, which protected our DSLRs, lenses, electronics, cables, batteries and other stuff, even when swimming in the Cononaco river! And the rest? I packed it into my Lowepro DryZone DF 20L, which I have trusted since the very first moment I touched it.
Well, let’s talk about why PJJ is an important member of the crew, and let’s say it before he gets back – he will be shy if I compliment him 🙂 He is a father of two and one reason why he has such a beautiful relationship with his children is that his soul, heart and brain are still a little bit childish (but the rest is adult, usually, thank God!). Petr needs to eat the ground, touch the untouchable, jump into the air, fall into the holes. My personal motto is: if you want to fly, you must jump – so, I very much like Petr’s endurance. He is not happy until he has sand in his ears if he is filming in desert (as in Abusir before). He is not happy until he is half submerged in mud and water in the Amazon together with the Waoranis. And this is exactly what I need!
If I want to have happy, undisturbed local people in my film, they must accept us. We must break the borders. We need them to laugh at us. They should feel and see that we are not familiar with their life, that we understand that here it is they who are best equipped and experienced. But, we are trying – and this is the way to create understanding and friendship, anywhere and anytime. So, we went fishing in a small (and pretty deep!) stream together with nude Waorani ladies, we hunted the pecaris with the Waorani warriors and hunters – for three hours during which it was terribly hot, terribly wet and rained heavily two times.
So, I had a topic, I had a place and people to film and I had a crew. Now I needed the gear to work. 4K filming with a lot of other special filming gear (more than 150kilos of equipment!) has to work. Any time. Anywhere. But, in these conditions, it is not simple to keep gear dry and unscratched. That was the moment I understood why PJJ is an ambassador of Lowepro.
His every trip is a test of their products. Once he sees an object to film, there is nothing in the world that can stop him. Bump! His bag falls down in the mud. Crrrrash – the zipper of his bag is screaming as he pulls it with one hand, trying with the second hand to prepare the composition. And the gear calmly does it’s job. The bag is still in one piece, the lenses and cameras are dry and ready for filming.
So, now there is only half a day before we are supposed to sit in a small plane and fly back to a mobile signal, to the internet and to a shower and hotel beds. It is good to have one more hardworking member on our team – Lowepro.
Would you like more information, behind-the-scenes videos or to become involved? Visit www.civilisation-film.com and write us. We enjoy contact and communication. You know – it is good to get in contact, it is good to eat the ground and break borders! 🙂