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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Burning Season (2008)

The Burning Season (2008)

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Released 9-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Introduction-by Hugh Jackman
Additional Footage-Additional Character Stories
Additional Footage-Extended Orangutan Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 89:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Cathy Henkel

Madman Entertainment
Starring Cathy Henkel
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Nicolette Boaz

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   It's a good documentary that brings to light an injustice, a pressing concern that just has to be remedied. It's an even better one that not only highlights a problem but actually provides a solution to the crisis. The Burning Season, an Australian documentary written and directed by Cathy Henkel scores high on both counts.

The subject is the man made fires that rage throughout Indonesia as farmers make way for their chief crop, palms for palm oil. Celebrities such as Sting brought attention to the crisis in the Amazon rain forests but who would have thought that such a dire problem lay just outside our door? The statistics are grim. 300 football fields of rainforest being cleared every hour and Indonesia the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses.

The film looks at the issue from three perspectives - the perpetrator, the victim and the possible saviour. In doing so it gives intelligent balance to the issue allowing for a better understanding of the complexities of the problem.

The perpetrator is no greedy corporate empire but small lot farmers like Achmedi. He doesn't want to destroy the forest, and weeps at the thought of his actions, but cannot think of an alternative which puts food on his family table at the end of the day. Why the burn? Well the farmers don't have the equipment or money to clear land with machinery so they just fell the trees and burn the whole mess to the ground, creating an environmentally frightening cloud of smoke.

The victims are the orang-utans that inhabit the forests. Clear felling and burning destroys their precious habitats leaving nowhere for them to forage or live. The orang-utan is a well chosen symbol of the degradation of the environment. No doubt there is a plethora of crawly and bitey creatures similarly destroyed by the efforts of the burners but nothing says "Save the Forests" quite like the image of a lonely orang-utan, wandering aimlessly through an ashen landscape.

The Lorax who speaks for the orang-utans is Lone Droscher-Nielsen, a woman who has devoted her life to establishing a safe haven for the displaced apes. The problem - her Borneo based centre is overfilled with some 600 orang-utans calling it home. She longs to let the apes back into the wild but cannot do so as the viable places are rapidly shrinking. She fears that left unchecked there will be no wilderness for the apes to inhabit.

The saviour is Dorjee Sun a young Australian who believes he has a way to save the forests that will also generate income. He reasons, quite soundly that simply making a plea to save the forests will only generate interest and some money but will not really make an impact. His plan - swap Western Carbon Credits for money to pay the farmers not to burn the land. The plan doesn't have universal support. Some argue that more time should be spent trying to keep the polluters to reduced emissions rather than just allowing them to dump their credits into Indonesia. Still Dorjee thinks that his emission trading plan is a firm start in the right direction.

Actually, that idea is Plan A. During the course of this often nail-biting film Dorjee has to think fast and improvise to keep the dream alive. It all comes down to the Bali conference on Climate Change. Will the delegates, particularly the intransigent USA, move to adopt the proposal to add forests to the list of carbon trading mechanisms? Will the Governors of the provinces most at risk from the burning trust Dorjee and his big business aspirations?

The Burning Season is narrated by Hugh Jackman who fills in some of the background information, including the horrifying statistics of the amount of forest that is burnt out every day. Special mention must be made of the snappy animations which use the traditional Indonesian Wayang puppets as a theme. Very clever.

It is an inspiring documentary due to the firm resolve of the participants, even the burning farmer, to find a way to improve the World.

Watch and enjoy.

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Transfer Quality


    The Burning Season was shot on Digital Video at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. That aspect ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

This is a low budget film and therefore viewers shouldn't expect glowing sunsets and high definition ape hair. That said the result isn't too bad. It was filmed very much on the fly - with Dorjee racing in and out of meetings and Lone trying to work out what to do with her facility that is bursting at the seams.

The film and extras are placed on a DVD 9 though I couldn't detect the layer change. Compression is only an issue when the video struggles to resolve the detail present in scenes filled with smoke.

The colours are fine and the detail in the faces, including the skin and ape hair tones, are reasonably sharp. Digital noise is a factor in some of the night scenes.

There are subtitles burned into the print for those scenes where the interviewees speak in their native languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


   The Burning Season carries a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at 224 Kb/s.

This is perfectly adequate for a show that consists of nothing but interviews and meetings.

The dialogue can be heard clearly and, where it can't, the filmmakers have inserted subtitles.

There is a score by Nicolette Boaz that is fine throughout and has some tense moments, as Dorjee tries to bring his plan to the money men and then back to the leader of Aceh province whose signature is essential to the success of the venture.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


This DVD carries a wealth of extras:

Introduction by Hugh Jackman (0.58)

Narrator Jackman explains his reasons for getting involved in this project and urges everyone to make a difference.

Additional Characters Stories

This is a real bonus, almost 50 minutes of interesting extra material. The individual elements are:

  1. Lone and life at Nyaru Mentang Orang-utan Centre (9.00)
  2. Sumatran Orang-utans and Elephants (3.18)
  3. Life in a Palm Oil Community (9.41)
  4. On the Road With Dorjee (11.09)
  5. Governor Irwanda in Aceh and USA (13.36)

This set of shorts gives us a chance to get to know the key players a little bit better. There are key stories that deepen the backstory but probably didn't add much to the narrative. For example, eco-warrior Lone used to be an flight attendant, Dorjee spent innumerable hours caressing , cajoling and stroking the various egos involved in the project and Governor Irwanda was in prison in Aceh when the tsunami hit and almost lost his life. Fascinating stuff.

Extended Orang-utan Scenes (5.25)

In fact this is an all out plea for the future of the Orang-utans. We meet the overflowing inhabitants of the refuge, including a one-handed ape that has to learn how to forage for herself before she can be let out into the wild, if that is even possible.

Theatrical Trailer (2.13)

A nice accurate trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This DVD is not available in other Regions as yet.


    The Burning Season needs to be seen not only by those blissfully unaware of the calamity in the rainforests of Indonesia, but also those who see a business opportunity in saving the planet. Dorjee represents the best hope for the future, driven by the desire to do good and make money.

The transfer of this film is fine and the extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, May 24, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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