Settling Sea Gypsies

Settling Sea Gypsies
A Documentary by Arno van Beest
Crowdfunding teaser: 
funded project
donated of €7.500
days to go

Project Information

About the project
LOCKLINEThree generations of a Bajo sea gypsy family all face the emerging problems of modern society in a different way.

A tribe in harmony with the sea. The emerging modernity disrupts the balance. Overfishing is a threat. A film about three generations in a Bajo sea gypsy family who all deal differently with the new times.  

"We, the original Bajo, are becoming less and might even be extinct in the nearby future.” Lauda


Lauda fishing


Indonesia, Coral Triangle, Banda sea.The Bajo sea gypsies are masters in freedive fishing with a speargun and are self sustainable, living of fishing. They are one with the sea and are able to stay 5 minutes under water in depths up 20 meters. They believe that the sea gods protect them as long as they treat the sea with respect. Sadly modernity is threatening their unique lifestyle and this beautiful part of the Coral Triangle. 


Sampela, Bajo village

Over the past 3 years I have lived for months with the Bajo. I saw how bartering has been replaced by money and how modern society and materialism are threatening their traditional existence. Together with the family of Mbo Tadi I followed how this process influenced three generations: grandfather, sons and grandson. 

If we succeed in raising enough funding to complete the film, it will be screened in the cinemas this October by distributor Herrie Film& TV. So support us!  


Mbo Tadi’s familyMbo Tadi fishing We are following the family of Mbo Tadi (75) and Mbo Kalong (70). Both know what it means to be a nomad. They used to live in small canoes on sea and travelled from fishing ground to fishing ground. During the stormy season they built temporary huts on the beach.

The Indonesian Government forced them to settle, because they suspected the Bajo - wrongly - of piracy and illegal fishing. Nowadays  they live in Sampela,  a village built on stilts in the Banda sea.           

                   Mbo Kalong


Their son Tonga (33) wants to continue the traditional lifestyle of his parents, but financial problems are forcing him in another direction. His brother Lauda (35) is being torn between the seduction of what money can buy and the traditional Bajo culture. His son Adi (11) doesn't want to know anything about the nomadic existence and only fishes for money which he then gambles away. 

The modern net fisher Si Juaseng empties the reefs around Sampela using two boats and a big net, which allows him to buy a bigger house and bigger boats and is able to perform the Hadj in Mekka. The amount of net fishers like Si Juaseng is growing in the village.


Fish net  

Why make this film?Arno: "Over the past 4 years I have financed 3 trips to film in Indonesia. Each time I stayed a few months with the Bajo. I learned how to freedive to gain their trust and to show my sincere interest. The power and beauty of the traditional Bajo identity really struck me, as did the knowledge that the existence of these people and the nature surrounding them is endangered. 

The Bajo village is a microcosm of our own society. There the rise of capitalism is easily visible. A development that happened a long time ago in our society and something we have partly forgotten.Tonga has borrowed money from a money lender and is being forced to sell him his catch at rock bottom prices, in order to pay off his debts. This is how he loses his freedom. The youngest generation no longer feels the harmony with the sea, their livelihood, and now solely fishes for money.

Through this film we want to shine a new light on our welfare society which is driven by money and consumption. Money doesn't necessarily set us free, but creates uniformity and forces people into set patterns."



What can you do now?Do you want to see this film? Then support our project. Choose the reward that suits you the most, we are happy with everything! The rewards can be found in the grey column to the right.

You can also support us in different ways. Mbo Tadi's family tells a very special story of which we hope can reach a maximum amount of people. Spread the story by sharing our Cinecrowd project with your friends and family via social media, like Facebook and Twitter. 

The filming of the film is completely finished and with the money raised with the Cinecrowd campaign we will finish the post-production. If everything goes accordingly to plan we will have the film ready by the start of July. The money raised by Cinecrowd we will use to finance the editing, color correction and grading and the soundmix and sounddesign. Distributor Herrie will release the film in the cinemas this autumn. Thank you so much for coming so far with us in this beautiful adventure!

  Meet the main characters and watch the 8 min. preview on:  Sampela end Mede mogelijk gemaakt door het AFK

Quote that inspired the maker

In the Coral Triangle I met the Bajo sea gypsies. I have followed this tribe, that is one with the sea, for 3 years. I learned to freedive like them. Join us in finishing this unique movie.
Arno van Beest
This project was successfully funded on 20-02-2015

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