Dialog Box

Community | Environment | Indigenous | Rural | Social Justice
The Bamboo Bridge


$9,603 Raised of

Every dry season for over three decades a 1.5 kilometre bridge made completely of bamboo has been built across the Mekong River in Cambodia to join the rural community of Koh Paen to the city of Kampong Cham. Every year the bridge has been dismantled as the rising waters and monsoon storms make the Mekong into a roaring torrent. This bamboo bridge is a testament to community and ecological resilience. It embodies the skills of generations of builders and community members and signals what it means to live with the rhythms of nature making a light footprint.

In 2017 the bamboo bridge was built for the last time. A new permanent concrete bridge was built by the government with Chinese investment, bringing the benefits of regular and quick connection to markets, hospitals and facilities, but paving the way for property speculation and urban development of rural Koh Paen. In the film we follow three generations of bridge builders who tell stories of this unique sustainable infrastructure and the local economies and ecologies it sustained. Focusing on the last bridge builder, Mr Oun, we learn about the intricacies of traditional forms of sustainable living more in sync with the rhythms of local ecosystems like the river, the monsoon and the cycles of bamboo.

The Bamboo Bridge is a film that  brings together observational and poetic modes of representation to tell a story of social transformation during times of rapid and unstoppable environmental change. The film portrays two worlds (rural Koh Pean Island and Kampong Cham the third largest city in Cambodia) both of which are changing rapidly with the times. These worlds were once connected by a seasonal bamboo bridge that was a cultural heritage of pride for local residents, now these two worlds are connected by a massive concrete bridge oblivious to the rhythms of nature. This bamboo bridge is telling an urgent and ancient story. Are we listening?

Teaser on Vimeo  https://vimeo.com/243601859


How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

The modern hyper-separation of economy from ecology has severed the ties that people have with environments and species that sustain life. A first step towards strengthening resilience at a human scale involves appreciating, caring for and repairing the longstanding ecological relationships that have supported life over the millennia. The capacity to appreciate these relationships has, however, been diminished by a utilitarian positioning of natural environments by economic science. This film is linked to a broader research project that aims to reframe economy–ecology relations, resituating humans within ecological communities and resituating non-humans in ethical terms. It advances the idea of community economies as opposed to capitalist economies.The narrative of the Bamboo Bridge will spark philanthropic interest among those whose aims parallel issues presented in the film. This includes those interested in: climate change; sustainable livelihoods; local resilience, South-East Asia; social change; diverse economies; and alternative economic activities.

In Kampong Cham the future of sustainable livelihoods is at stake in times of climate change. Farming, fishing and sustainable growing and use of bamboo are being displaced by unsustainable economic practices that nevertheless bring development and access to facilities to rural communities. Lands and fish breeding areas have become warmer with hotter temperatures. In 2011, the same year that fish stocks started to diminish, the province experienced a drought that meant wells and reservoirs didn’t have enough water supply. There were unpredictable droughts, too, in the middle of a farming season in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, the flow of the Mekong River was not enough to provide adequate water to farms.
Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

This is a documentary film that aims to create awareness of the importance of sustainable livelihoods in building communities and the negative impacts of  changing structures that have been in place for centuries. It will highlight issues confronting rural communities being affected by urban development and climate change.We aim to screen the film in national and international film festivals particularly those with a focus on climate change; sustainable livelihoods; local resilience, South-East Asia; social change; diverse economies; and alternative economic activities.

We aim to achieve a broad audience reach and positive social media engagement, highlighting the significance of the issues the film addresses. The film will be used as a way to engage with academia and research institutes to further understanding and influence policy making. The outcomes can be measured using quantitative and qualitative indicators, collected by the following methods: tracking the number of people viewing the documentary; the number of screenings we manage to have; facebook, twitter and website analytics; post-viewing surveys; media interest and speaking opportunities secured in the film industry, academic and other contexts.

What is your education and outreach strategy?

Our film primarily targets an international audience with particular interest in climate change; sustainable livelihoods; South-East Asia; social change; and alternative economic activities. Key initiatives will include: entering the film in domestic and international film festivals as well as festivals with an emphasis on the issues the film addresses; promoting the film to our growing network of academics nationally and internationally and other relevant groups; encouraging our partners and associated organisations to host screenings; touring the film via conferences and seminars across Australian and international universities; pitching our film to TV stations such as SBS; development of a website, containing the entire documentary and links for further information; disseminating the film as part of the bigger research project we are embarked on.
Juan F. Salazar
Katherine Gibson Alejandra Canales Claire Fletcher
Total budget
60 Minutes