Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Unspoilt Place

Unexpectedly, Daniel Dengate walked out of the dense jungle into paradise. For the famed documentarian, the discovery of West Africa's Golong tribe enabled him to fulfill his lifelong dream. Until Dengate unexpectedly found them living in their Stone Age village in a difficult-to-reach valley, the self-sufficient Golong people had existed only in legend. For what anthropologists estimate is at least one thousand years, the "Lost Tribe" had had absolutely no contact with the outside world. Their primitive life had been totally untouched by modern civilization. This was the last unspoilt place on earth.

Dengate discovered that the Golong people lived in peace and harmony with their magnificent natural surroundings. Their language had no words for enemy or hate or jealousy, they made no weapons, they ate only what they could grow. Man and woman lived together with love based on mutual respect for their lifetime, their children were reverent toward their elders, members of the tribe shared all their possessions and worked happily together. The tribe raised magnificently colored butterflies, which they set free at the full moon as their gift to the gods of nature.

The Golong people had created a paradise on earth, Dengate realized, a living model of how beautiful life could be if people learned to live together peacefully. And he vowed to bring the message of this innocent tribe to the world.

He began filming the PBS documentary A Perfect Place. His twenty-four person crew lived among the Golong people for six months, learning their customs and their language, while teaching them rudimentary English and introducing them to basic technology, such as Panaflex cameras, cell phones, and fax machines.

The documentary and accompanying book appealed tremendously to the desire of many people to return to a simpler world. The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award and the book became a best-seller. Based on this success, Dengate was able to secure financing for the romantic feature film Love in a Grand Old World, in which Sandra Bullock starred as a member of a documentary-film crew who falls in love with a widowed Golong man with an adorable young child.

As the Golong "craze" began growing in America, Dengate knew he had to find a way to protect the tribe from exploitation. So he got them the best lawyer in the field, noted theatrical attorney Andrew Glenn. Gleen immediately negotiated a deal for all rights to manufacture and market authentic Golong woven jewelry, which would be produced in China and sold exclusively on the Home Shopping Network. With proceeds from this sale, the tribe was able to build a small hospital, install a satellite dish, and purchase several flat-screen TVs.

Struck by the simple beauty of traditional Golong songs, Barry Manilow recorded an album of authentic Golong music in a recording studio built less than a mile from the village, hiring Golong tribespeople to sing backup vocals. The opportunity to visit the last unspoilt place on earth proved to be irresistible to thousands of people, who were willing to spend large sums of money to experience a culture completely free of materialism. To make these tourists comfortable, the Hilton Hotel chain constructed the Golong Resort and Casino, which also provided employment for tribe members.

In addition to the regular tours that began visiting the village, Club Med set up a small village and landing strip within observation distance. Club Med management was able to hire several villagers for full-time trainee positions. Advertisers took note of the public desire to slow down. Chrysler created an entire campaign for a new line of four-wheel-drive vehicles entitled "A New Car for an Old World" around this phenomenon. "Deep in the jungle there is a very special place where life is lived slowly," the narrator said mellifluously, as a brute of a vehicle was seen ripping through the jungle, "but you might want to spend your whole vacation getting there." The campaign premiered during the Super Bowl. In recognition of their work in this commercial, the Golong people were granted the first tribal membership in Screen Actors Guild history.

When the jungle surrounding the village became overbooked, Disney Inc. was able to convince several members of the tribe to set up a touring unit. This group of Golongs traveled with the "Jack the Ripper on Ice" troupe and lived in small temporary villages in major arenas where ticketholders could observe them. Discounts were given for school groups. Unfortunately, the worldwide demand for personal appearances by the tribespeople made it impossible for them to continue living in their coconut-leaf huts. So, to fulfill commitments made to tour groups, almost one hundred Chinese people were brought into the jungle to lead authentic Golong lives.

Less than four years after he had stepped out of the jungle into ancient history, Dan Dengate's lifelong dream had finally come true: he had earned more money than he ever thought possible and was able to retire to play golf.

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