Some stories just seem to be told by fate. Twenty years ago, Renan met Ben Ayers in Kathmandu while on a study-abroad program there. Ben had devoted himself to partnering with Nepal’s most isolated and marginalized communities to improve quality of life, education, and cultural heritage. Over the next decade, Ben developed a friendship with an extraordinary character - Maule Dhan Rai, a member of the obscure Kulung tribe who led a group of local men onto high jungle cliffs to harvest a hallucinogenic honey from the world’s largest bees.
Together, Ben and Renan recruited National Geographic to help tell the story and Renan was commissioned to shoot his first magazine stills assignment. Professional climber Mark Synnott came along to write the story, and our top friend-crush filmmaker Ben Knight joined the expedition as the director, editor and principal cinematographer for a short film.
After weeks spent in a haze of shamanic rituals, beestings, rain and leeches, we emerged with a film and magazine article that mystified audiences and left us with more questions than answers. Deep and dark, the film glides through a misty world of forest spirits, dreams, and woodsmoke to share the story of the leader of the honey harvest and his final journey. In addition to over a dozen international awards, the short film qualified for an Academy Award.
We owe our access to this story and the trust of the Kulung community to the decade of work the dZi Foundation has done in this remote region of Nepal.
A co-production by Expedition Studios and Felt Soul Media.com, in association with the dZi Foundation and National Geographic.
The Cartel Award for Best Documentary* | Camden International Film festival
Grand Prize | Krakow Mountain Film Festival
Best Film Mountain Culture | Banff Mountain Film Festival
Best Culture and Nature Film | Bilbao Mendi Film Festival
Best Visuals | Kendal Mountain Film Festival
Best Short Documentary | Bend Film festival
Audience Choice Award | Kathmandu International Film Festival
Best Cinematography | New York Wild Film Festival
Audience Choice Short Documentary | Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Directed and Edited by Ben Knight
Principle Cinematography by Ben Knight and Renan Ozturk
Produced by Ben Ayers, Renan Ozturk and Travis Rummel
Associate Producer — Jeff Resnick
Additional Cinematography — Matt Irving, Ben Ayers, Taylor Rees
Aerial — Renan Ozturk