BAJO: The Guardians of the Reef

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A fisherman struggles to save the coral reef and preserve his community's future

Sulawesi is an Indonesian island at the epicentre of the world’s marine bio diversity, home to a rich coral ecosystem. Here, the indigenous Bajau people have been living in harmony with the ocean for hundreds of years, seeing themselves as part of the south pacific reef. Dafrin is one of them: a priest, fisherman and father who grew up in Pulau Papan village, built on top of the reef. He hunts for fish along the ocean floor by free diving, a traditional and sustainable method passed down by his ancestors. But because of overfishing and global warming, it’s becoming harder and harder for free divers to find food — and 95% of Indonesia’s coral reef is in critical condition. To fight this, and preserve his community’s future, Dafrin acts as a guardian of the ocean.

Created by Alice Colfox and Boris Thompson Roylance, this short follows Dafrin’s struggle to save the reef in the face of destructive fishing methods. Using a hand-held camera, Colfox and Thompson Roylance captured Dafrin’s daily life as a fisherman and the people who surround him. At a time when many of us are detached from the world, the film shows us a way of life that is closely tied to the water: and must be protected.

Colfox: “We wanted this film to uplift Dafrin, and his community’s fragile relationship with the ocean through inspiration for a better future. This project was made over a period of two years. From imagining a world we wanted to visit, a story we hoped to tell, to swimming through villages built on top of coral reefs. This was where our journey in the South Pacific began. Our process with Dafrin was very inspiring. Human stories of the ocean is such a broad topic, and it feels good to create a piece of work through his eyes, giving him a voice and platform to break the stereotypes surrounding the Bajo diving communities in his area. Dafrin’s story is global, his voice needs to be heard as he represents many other fishermen in Indonesia who rely on the ocean as a main food source and survival.”


Free diver & Reef Guardian- Dafrin Ambotang

Directors & editors - @alicecolfox & @deadbeatboris

Animation - @jai_vw

Fixer, and voiceover - @achoakina

Graphic Designer - @chanibaloo

Sound Design - @capuacollective & @ekhe_beats

Colour grade - @josephalexanderguy

Production company - @deadbeatfilms

NGO Partner - @togean_conservation_foundation