In 2008, entrepreneur Jimmy Stice bought 600 acres of tropical rain forest and set out to build a traditional city in paradise, when the market crashed thanks to traditional real estate. Realizing the old model of “if we build it they will come” was broken, he flipped it to “if they come, they will build it” and founded Kalu Yala, which means “Sacred Land,” which has since attracted hundreds of young people who – facing climate disaster, have decided to dedicate their lives to sustainability efforts over pursuing more traditional consumer-oriented routes.
JUNGLETOWN is an intimate look at mostly Millenials as they leave the comfort of their lives in civilization to come the jungle and figure out new ways to live, at a time we all must. JUNGLETOWN documents incredibly raw and intriguing characters and the work they are doing to set up farming systems, recycle 100% of their waste, build a stable water system, and document the wildlife to help preserve it. It’s also a look at what real community might look like, at a time when we’ve lost a sense of what that means. Sustainability and community are directly linked, so even though it’s not “the world’s most sustainable town” right now, the intention of all the people drawn there is to find a new ways to live together and work together in a way that’s positive for the earth. The film demonstrates that we can actively learn to live differently and offset climate change. We need to change our ways and this is an exciting way to portray that concept. Though sustainable living is very challenging, it’s possible.
Kalu Yala is also rife with conflict, as the land is privately owned and started as a real estate venture, some of the young people coming and paying to build it, resent the company for exploiting them in their view. Yet what they’re actually paying to be a part of is something very primitive… It’s almost like the return to a certain kind of living that is actually what living 100% sustainably looks like. Some leave and some stay, some hate Jimmy and others come to love him and beg for a job. Meanwhile the local community of San Miguel is wondering about the intent of these gringos who keep driving by… And the interns and staff of Kalu Yala are always trying to bridge that gap, but the fact is they are foreigners in that land, and will they take it over? What traditions will be lost? What lessons can be exchanged? Kalu Yala is only accessible down muddy, unpaved road called “Suicide Hill” which snakes through the Panamanian jungle and then across a river which swells and becomes impassable in the rain, so there is also the magnification of personal issues, both mental and physical, in this trying environment.
Directed by Ondi Timoner | Produced by Interloper Films and Viceland