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Song From The Forest




As a young man, American Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio that gripped his imagination. He followed the mysterious sounds all the way to the Central African rainforest and found their source with the Bayaka Pygmies, a tribe of hunters and gatherers. He never left.
Today, twenty-five years later, Louis Sarno has recorded more than 1,000 hours of unique Bayaka music. He is a fully accepted member of the Bayaka society and has a 13-year-old son, Samedi. Once, when Samedi was a baby, he became seriously ill and Louis feared for his life. He held his son in his arms through a frightful night and made him a promise: “If you get through this, one day I’ll show you the world I come from.”
Now the time has come to fulfill his promise, and Louis travels with Samedi from the African rainforest to another jungle, one of concrete, glass, and asphalt: New York City. Together, they meet Louis’ family and old friends, including his closest friend from college, Jim Jarmusch.
Carried by the contrasts between rainforest and urban America, with a fascinating soundtrack and peaceful, loving imagery, Louis‘ and Samedi‘s stories are interwoven to form a touching portrait of an extraordinary man and his son. SONG FROM THE FOREST is a modern epic set between rainforest and skyscrapers.

Crew & Partners

Michael Obert Director

Born in Breisach am Rhein in 1966, Michael Obert is an award-winning German author and journalist. Over the past 20 years he has travelled to the most remote parts of the world, forgotten corners of paradise as well as disaster areas and war zones. He mainly covers Africa and the Middle East. His seven-month journey from the source of the Niger to its mouth brought fame with his best-selling Regenzauber, known in English as On the River of Gods. Literary critics liken him to Bruce Chatwin, Jon Krakauer, and Ryszard Kapuscinski. When Michael is not travelling, he lives in Berlin. SONG FROM THE FOREST is his first film.

Alex Tondowski Producer

Alex started out as a stage actor in the 1980s in Paris, London, and New York. Following his childhood dream of Hollywood, he continued his career as a screen actor in Los Angeles and won roles in many television series, commercials, and films until his desire to return to Europe was too strong to resist. Shortly after his arrival in Berlin he founded Tondowski Films with his wife, Ira. Their goal is to support visionary directors to help them realise their ideas. “The story of Louis and his son is one that you dream of having the opportunity to make.“

Ira Tondowski Producer

Ira Tondowski was born in 1975 in East Berlin. She studied screenwriting at The Baden Württemberg’s renowned Filmakademie. She is a recipient of the Boje Buck Literature Prize for Nordwind, her greatly acclaimed screenwriting debut, and continues to work as a screenwriter and script adviser for both film and television. Driven by her desire to see stories on the big screen, she founded Tondowski Films in partnership with her husband, Alex. ”Working with Michael and Alex on SONG FROM THE FOREST has been life-changing, deeply moving, fun, and crazy. In one word: wonderful.”

Heino Deckert Co-Producer

Heino Deckert is producer and managing director of Ma.ja.de. filmproduktion based in Leipzig and Berlin, Germany, as well as running Deckert Distribution.
In 1995 Mr. Deckert founded d.net, an informal union of six European colleagues joining forces to exchange ideas and initiatives. Heino Deckert meanwhile produced more than 80 award-winning documentaries with filmmakers like Thomas Heise and Viktor Kossakowsky.
In 2005 Heino Deckert founded Ma.ja.de. fiction. “My Joy” and “In the Fog” by Sergei Loznitsa were chosen for the Cannes competition in 2010 and 2012.

Jutta Krug Commissioning Editor

Jutta Krug is currently working as commissioning editor for WDR, one of the largest German public broadcaster based in Cologne. She is in charge of feature length documentaries within the culture department. Her professional career was marked by ARTE in Strasbourg, where she was a member of the founding team in 1992. In 2000 she joined the WDR as a commissioning editor.
Many of the documentaries Jutta Krug commissioned received critical acclaims and are regularly screened at the most renowned international festivals. She has been member of different festival juries and regularly organises screenings and workshops.

Siri Klug Cinematographer

Siri Klug has been a camerawoman for numerous German and international productions. She trained with Michael Ballhaus (Gangs of New York), Hans Fromm (Wolfsburg), and took on second camera under Reinhold Vorschneider (Orly). “Working closely with such experienced filmmakers has helped me to quietly identify my own vision. My aim is not merely to seek out the perfect detail of a shot but also to bring the audience closer to those qualities we’re all searching for: sensitivity and passion.”

Wiebke Grundler Editor

Wiebke Grundler, a film editor since 2002, has worked on a wide range of productions for arte, 3sat, ZDF Theaterkanal, Kleines Fernsehspiel, and Al Jazeera as well as for The Goethe Institute in Abu Dhabi, the art gallery Haus der Kunst in Munich, and the Berlin theatre, the Volksbühne. She completed her professional studies in 2011 at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (HFF), the Film and Television University in Potsdam-Babelsberg. SONG FROM THE FOREST is her fourth full-length film.

Timo Selengia Sound

Timo Selengia was born in 1971 in Hamburg. Since 1998 he has been a sound engineer for cinema and TV productions, mostly documentary and reportage but also short films and feature films based on real-life events.


Louis & Samedi

Louis Sarno

Born in 1954 in New Jersey, Louis Sarno is a world-renowned musicologist. His remarkable life’s work includes more than 1,000 hours of recordings of the Bayaka people’s unique songs, some of which, without his documentation, would have been lost. As an undergraduate, Sarno studied English and literature, sharing his passion for experimental music with his roommate Jim Jarmusch, whose films Dead Man (1995) and Ghost Dog (1999) were inspired by Sarno´s unusual path through life.
It all started while he was listening to the radio one winter night in the nineteen eighties and discovered a type of music he had never heard before. “These strange harmonies sent shivers down my spine. They seemed to hypnotise me. It was pure magic.” The songs haunted him. He did some research and learned of their origin with the Bayaka. Soon after that he was packing his recording equipment alongwith his last 500 dollars and boarding a one-way flight to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.That was in 1985. A quarter of a century later he still lives amongst the Pygmies. “They are my family. The rainforest is my home.”

Samedi Mathurin Bokombe

Samedi is 13 years old. His name means Saturday. He’s called that because he was born on a Saturday. Until he travelled to the USA with his father, Samedi had never been out of the rainforest. Like most Bayaka children, he doesn’t go to school and can neither read nor write. Louis has not taught his son any English, nor does Samedi speak French, the official language of the Central African Republic.

The Bayaka People

The Bayaka (pronounced “bye-jacka”), also referred to as the Aka or Babenzele, are one of the oldest peoples on earth. They number around 100,000 people of small stature and live in the Central African rainforest as hunter-gatherers, using nets made of liana bark to hunt in large groups. The women carry the proceeds of the hunt, along with wild berries and fruits, in woven baskets on their backs. Their striking body decorations include facial tattoos, incisor teeth filed to a sharp point, and body carvings.
The very essence of Bayaka culture is their ancient polyphonic singing. The Bayaka use the sounds made by water, tree-trunks, birds, and wind to navigate the maze of the rainforest. The forest has sharpened their auditory abilities: not only can they decipher sounds from great distances, they also understand their significance. Bayaka music comes directly from this auditory understanding of the environment: the forest is the orchestra, the Bayaka take the solo parts. In 2003 the music of the Bayaka people was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
Over the past two decades, 75 percent of the Congo Basin rainforest has been cleared. The Bayaka, agile forest runners, are ill-equipped to deal with treefellers, gold prospectors, and speculative traders encroaching on their living space. The Bayaka people are fighting for survival.



For information click here

Spanish Premiere at WOMEX the World Music Expo, October 2014

For screening schedule click here

Cyprus Premiere at Lemesos International Documentary Festival, August 2014

For information click here

Australian Premiere at the Melbourne International film festival, August 2014

For information click here

We are part of the competition “Horizonte” at Fünf Seen Film Festival, Germany.

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Theatrical release in Poland on July 4th 2014 in over 20 cinemas countrywide.

For information click here

or here

Russian Premiere at the Moscow International film festival, June 2014

For information click here

China Premiere at the Shanghai International film festival, June 2014

For information click here

Macedonia Premiere at the Makedox Film Festival in Skopje.

For screening schedule click here

New Zealand Premiere at the EDGE Film Festival in Auckland and Wellington.

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We are part of the Best of the Fest section at the Biografilm Festival in Italy.

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Italian Premiere at the Cineambiente Film Festival in Napoli.

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Canada Premiere at the DOXA Film Festival in Vancouver. May 2014

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Green Film Festival in Seoul, Korea.

Ecuador Premiere at the Edoc Festival.

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Poland premiere at the Planet + Doc Film Festival in Warsaw, PolandMay 2014

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Israel Premiere at the DocAviv International fim festival in Tel Aviv, Israel May 2014

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Coming to a cinema near you in Belgium starting on April 15th 2014

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Coming to a cinema near you in Denmark starting on April 30th 2014

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German premiere at DOK.fest Munich May 7th-14th 2014

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VARIETY, review by Peter Debruge

It' All True International Documentary Film Festival Brazil – Opening Film – in Sao Paulo & Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 4th – 13th April 2014

For screening schedule click here

River Run International Film Festival 2014 – Documentary Feature Competition – in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA 4th – 13th April 2014

For screening schedule click here

Reykjavík Shorts & Docs Festival 2014 – in Reykjavík, Iceland 3rd – 9th April 2014

For screening schedule click here

Cleveland International Film Festival 2014- in Cleveland, OH, USA 19th – 30th March 2014

For screening schedule click here

ZagrebDox 2014 – International Competition – in Zagreb, Croatia, 24th Feb.- 3rd March 2014.

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USA Premiere at SXSW Festival 2014 in Austin, Texas, 7-15 March 2014.

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SONG FROM THE FOREST by Michael Obert was awarded the VPRO IDFA Award for Feature Length Documentary 2013!

The IDFA Jury Report:
“… one film stepped out. With a lush sound design, tender images, and intimate access, this film explores the legacy of an aging man immersed deep in a rainforest community, where he has recorded thousands of hours of music. By tracing his journey back to the city with his young son, this film poetically asks: as the world changes around us, what do we leave behind? The jury gives the prize for the best Feature length documentary to Song from the Forest by Michael Obert.”

See IDFA reviews:

Hollywood Reporter Review IDFA 2013
Indie Wire Review IDFA 2013

For the winners more screening have been scheduled see Showtimes

SONG FROM THE FOREST is nominated for the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary

SONG FROM THE FOREST is selected for
Feature-Length Documentary Competition
at The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2013 (www.idfa.nl)

Thursday, 21st of November, 8.15pm
at Pathé De Munt Theatre
Vijzelstraat 15, 1017 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Further Screenings click Showtimes


Screening and Q&A with director Michael Obert
Breisach on the Rhine, Germany
Saturday 4 October 8:15 pm Kommunales Kino
Sunday 5 October 5:00 pm Kommunales Kino

Screening and Q&A with director Michael Obert
Hanover, Germany
Friday 19 September 8:30 pm Kino im Sprengel

Screening and Q&A with director Michael Obert
Berlin, Germany
Sunday 14 September 6:00 pm fsk
For information click here

Screening and Q&A with director Michael Obert
Freiburg, Germany
Saturday 13 September time 7:00 pm Friedrichsbau

Screening and Q&A with director Michael Obert
Frankfurt, Germany
Friday 12 September 5:30 pm Mal Seh'n
in co-operation with medico international

Screening and Q&A with director Michael Obert
Stuttgart, Germany
Thursday 11 September 6:30 pm Delphi Arthaus

Cologne premiere
Wednesday 3 September 8:00 pm Odeon
with Special Guests From Team and Cast
For information and tickets click here

Berlin premiere
Tuesday 2 September 8:00 pm Delphi Filmpalast
with Special Guests From Team and Cast
For information and tickets click here

Hamburg premiere
Monday 1 September 8:00 pm Abaton
with Special Guests From Team and Cast
For information and tickets click here

Screening at WOMEX, Spain
25 October 3:00 pm
screening schedule click here

Screening at Lemesos International Documentary Festival, Cyprus
6 August 6:30 pm Theatro Ena
further info

Screenings at Fünf seen Festival, Germany
26 July 7:00 pm Kino Breitwand Herrsching
27 July 6:00PM Kino Breitwand Starnberg
further info www.fsff.de

Theatrical release in Poland on July 4th 2014 in over 20 cinemas countrywide.

For information click here
or here

Screenings at Edge Documentary Festival in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand
Saturday 31 May 9:15 pm Q Theater
Monday 2 June 1:30PM Q Theater
Wed 11 June 1 pm Roxy Cinema
Sat 14 June 8:45 pm Roxy Cinema
further info www.documentaryedge.org.nz

Screenings at Beldocs Film Festival in Belgrade, Serbia
Tuesday, May 14, 2014 – 19:00am
further info www.beldocs.rs

Screenings at DOXA Film Festival in Vancouver, Canada
Saturday, May 10, 2014 – 11:00am
further info www.doxafestival.ca

Screenings at Docaviv Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel
Friday May 9th 19:30 Cinemateque 4
Tuesday May 13th 16:45 Cinemateque 1
further info www.docaviv.co.il

Screenings at the Green Film Festival in Seoul, Korea
Saturday May 10th 19:00 / Seoul Museum of History
Thursday May 15th 16:00 / Seoul Museum of History
further info www.gffis.org

Screenings at Planet + Doc Festival in Warsaw and Wroclaw, Poland
14.05 / 21:30
15.05 / 21:30
16.05 / 17:00
17.05 / 21:30
10.05 / 21:00
11.05 / 17:00
16.05 / 17:00
further info www.planetdocff.pl

Screenings at BuDoKu festival in Budapest, Hungary
Tuesday May 6th, 2014/ 20h00 / Toldi
Sunday May 11th, 2014/ 18h45/ Művész
further info www.budoku.hu

Screenings at DOK fest. München in Munich, Germany
DOK Panorama Section
Friday May 9th, 2014/ 19h30/ City 2
Sunday May 11th, 2014/ 20h00/ Filmmuseum
further info www.dokfest-muenchen.de

Screenings at It's All True International Documentary Film Festival – in São Paulo & Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
International Retrospective
São Paulo/ Friday, April 4th, 2014/ 17h00/ Livraria Cultura
Rio de Janeiro/ Thursday, April 10th, 2014/ 19h30/ Espaço Itaú de Cinema Botafogo
São Paulo/ Sunday, April 12th, 2014/ 14h30/ Livraria Cultura
further info www.itsalltrue.com

Screenings at River Run Internation Film Festival – in Winston – Salem, North Carolina, USA
Saturday, April 5th, 2014/ 10h30/ a/perture
Sunday, April 6th, 2014/ 19h30/ a/perture
Tuesday, April 8th, 2014/ 14h30/ a/perture
further info www.riverrunfilm.com

Screenings at Reykjavík Shorts & Docs Festival 2014 – in Reykjavík, Iceland
Friday, April 4th, 2014/ 18h00/ Bió Paradís
Monday, April 7th, 2014/ 22h00/ Bió Paradís
further info www.shortsdocsfest.com

Screenings at Cleveland Int. Film Festival 2014, Cleveland,OH, USA
Friday, March 28, 2014 at 1:30 PM
Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 6:20 PM
further info www.clevelandfilm.org

Screenings at Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece
Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 8PM – John Cassavetes Cinema
Friday, March 21, 2014 at 8PM – Pavlos Zannas Cinema
further info www.tdf.filmfestival.gr

Screenings at SXSW 2014, Austin,TX, USA
Saturday, March 8 / 2:00PM / AMC Theater at VCC
Monday, March 10 / 9:30PM / SXSatellite: Marchesa
Wednesday, March 12 / 2:00PM / SXSatellite: Alamo Village
further info www.sxsw.com

Screenings at ZagrebDox 2014, Zagreb, Croatia
Monday, Feb 24th at 12pm-Theater 4
Thursday, Feb 27th at 9pm-Theater 3
Saturday, Mar 1st at 4pm-Theater 2
further info www.zagrebdox.net

EFM Industry screening, Berlin, Germany (EFM Badge holders only)
Friday, February 7th 2014, 4pm – Cinemaxx 19

More Screenings at IDFA 2013, Amsterdam, Netherlands
29.11.2013/ 10h00/ Melkweg – Rabozaal
30.11.2013/ 10h00/ DLM: Mary Dresselhuys Zaal
30.11.2013/ 10h00/ DLM: Wim Sonneveld Zaal
30.11.2013/ 10h00/ Melkweg – Rabozaal
30.11.2013/ 12h30/ Tuschinski 3
01.12.2013/ 10h00/ DLM: Mary Dresselhuys Zaal
01.12.2013/ 10:00/ DLM: Wim Sonneveld Zaal
for tickets www.idfa.nl

Screenings at IDFA 2013, Amsterdam, Netherlands

21.11.2013 / 20.15h / Munt 7 – WORLD PREMIERE
22.11.2013 / 12.30h / Brakke Grond Expo
23.11.2013 / 15.45h / Munt 12 – INDUSTRY SCREENING
24.11.2013 / 17.45h / Tuschinski 4
27.11.2013 / 14.15h / Munt 12
30.11.2013 / 12.30h / Tuschinski 3
for tickets www.idfa.nl

Help the Bayaka


The Bayaka pygmies and their unique culture are threatened by the destruction of their rainforest home, poaching, and epidemics. Even before filming began, team members Michael Obert (director) Alex Tondowski & Ira Tondowski(producers) and Percy Vogel (associate producer) were looking for ways to support the Bayaka of Central Africa in their struggle for survival. These efforts developed into the BAYAKA SUPPORT PROJECT, which makes it possible for you, viewers of SONG FROM THE FOREST, to help the Bayaka through your donations. We will seek out projects that are appropriate and meaningful for the community and will help to develop them further.
Please join the effort to support the Bayaka. Donate today! Thank you.
Michael Obert, Alex Tondowski and Percy Vogel – THE BAYAKA SUPPORT PROJECT

Our current recommendations for donations:

1. Support Louis Sarno and his community through donations to „Global Voice“ (tax-deductable for US-taxpayers) or the Germany-based Förderverein für bedrohte Völker e.V.

Louis Sarno is still living among his Bayaka friends and family in the Central African Republic. He spends much of his time and energy supporting the Bayaka in various ways, most significantly by distributing medication and food to those in need. But the current civic war in the CAR means that tourism – the most important source of income for Louis in recent years – has more or less stopped. Through „Global Voice“ you can help Louis and the Bayaka of Yandoumbé to survive even in these difficult times.

You live in the US or other non-EU-countries? click here

You live in the European Union? Make your donation to:
Foerdervereins fuer bedrohte Voelker e.V.
Postbank Hamburg
IBAN: DE89 2001 0020 0007 4002 01
Kontoinhaber: Förderverein für bedrohte Völker e.V.
Reason for transfer: “Indigenous peoples CAR

Your donation will be transferred to Louis Sarno in the CAR! Thank you!

2. Support the Bayaka Fund of WWF Germany (tax-deductable for EU taxpayers)

WWF Germany began the Bayaka Fund in 2012, in part inspired and accompanied by the filmmakers’ work in Dzanga-Sanga. The goal of the fund is to improve the community’s access to medicine, food, and education as well as to ensure their access to the forest on which their culture and way of life depend. In addition, the fund aims to support the Bayaka’s autonomy and cultural self-determination, in part through recognition of their rights as indigenous people. In addition the fund aims to support the Bayaka’s autonomy and cultural self-determination, in part through recognition of their rights as indigenous people. The Fund’s projects are an integral part of the ongoing rainforest protection efforts that the WWF has led in Dzanga-Zanga for 20 years—including during the current civil war in the Central African Republic.

Please donate to:
WWF Deutschland
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
IBAN: DE06 5502 0500 0222 2222 22
Please indicate that the donation is intended for the “Bayaka Fund”

For donations from within the European Union, WWF Germany will provide a donation receipt upon request. Write to
The WWF guarantees that 100% of your donations will support the Bayaka Fund. None will be used for administrative costs. TondowskiFilms&Friends also supports this BAYAKA SUPPORT PROJECT donation recommendation—with half of the profits from SONG FROM THE FOREST


Tondowski Films & Friends

Krieler Landweg 3
14662 Mühlenberge, Germany
Phone +49 33238 205 87, Fax +49 33238 205 86
, www.tondowskifilms.de

World Sales

Deckert Distribution GmbH
Marienplatz 1
04103 Leipzig, Germany
Phone +49 341 215 66 38
, www.deckert-distribution.com

Press Agency

Claudia Tomassini + Associates
Saarbrücker Strasse 24, Haus B, 2.OG (2nd floor)
10405 Berlin, Germany
Phone + 49 30 4434 0606
, www.claudiatomassini.com


Tondowski Films & Friends GbR & Co. TF KG

Managing Directors:
Alexandre Tondowski, Ira Tondowski

Phone +49 33238 205 87, Fax +49 33238 205 86
, www.tondowskifilms.de

Court Register:
Amtsgericht Potsdam, HRA5416P


 Despite careful checks being made on content, the company bears no legal liability for the content of external links. Only the operators of webpages reached through links can be held legally responsible for their content.



Web Development:

Ingo Tegeder




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