TV review: Hunter gathering is not just for holidays

Will Millard with tribe member Markus. Photographer: Gavin Searle

My Year With The Tribe, BBC 2, Sunday at 9pm

We are enthralled with the idea of hunter gatherers.

It's mixed up with a view of the modern world as environmentally damaging, removed from nature and overly complex.

We yearn for a simpler time when the tribe harvested its food, medicine and housing materials from the land and forest around it.

Will Millard's three-part series was to be an exploration of the Korawai tribe in the deep rainforest of Papua.

The Korawai live in tree-houses because they believe the forest floor is inhabited by dangerous spirits and Millard hoped a family would take him in.

Bruce Parry and others have made lots of television about the ways of remote tribes and Millard's film may have been as routine, but instead it turned into an existential question about the point of this kind of film making.

It turns out the Korawai know what filmmakers, photographers and tourists want, and are prepared to give it to them - at a price.

A Korowai man lists the menu: £5 for a picture, £25 to go fishing and £50 to go into the forest to harvest grubs (as favoured by the producers of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here).

But the contracts can get even bigger. Millard finds out that a 40 metre high tree house has never been lived in and was specially built for filming. A Korawai man he befriends explains that inhabited tree houses are never more than 10 metres high.

And anyway, almost all the Korowai now live in villages and only take off their clothes and head to abandoned tree houses to trick foolish westerners.

There must be a bit of Kerryman in this tribe because the Kingdom has been pulling this kind of trick on rich Americans for decades.

You wanted to congratulate the Korowai on their business acumen, while understanding their desire for progress.

Why should indigenous people remain frozen in time for tourists to take their picture on their iPhones and proselytise about getting back to nature before flying home in a jet plane to a prosperous western life?


The Queen's Green Planet, UTV, Monday at 9pm

Queen Elizabeth was also promoting the environment, but her mission was a bit more sustainable.

She wants to increase the amount of trees in the world under the banner of “The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.”

This requires a lot of glad handing - a speciality of the monarchy - of high commissioners of the 53 nations of the Commonwealth to convince them to legally protect existing forests and plant more.

The centrepiece of the television programme, however, was the Queen inviting David Attenborough over to the gardens of Buckingham Palace to have a chat about trees and the project.

Attenborough (92 next month) even wore a suit and tie for the occasion,

Both (the Queen is 92 in a couple of days) looked and sounded spectacularly well for their age.

They discussed the London Plane trees planted by Victoria and Albert, the trees planted on their birth of her children and the sorrow of James I when he planted the wrong kind of Mulberry and the silk worms didn't make any silk.

Interspersed in the walk and chat, we were taken to various parts of the world where younger royals planted trees and watched school children dance.

Nothing new there then.

“It's what our family does,” said Harry in Namibia. “We travel the world planting trees.”

As a project it was well-intended. As a television programme it was a little bit dull, but no doubt the royal watchers will have loved seeing the Queen in conversation with one of the world's greatest conservationists.

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