When most people think of the township of Auroville, they probably think of Sri Aurobindo; Matrimandir, the famous tourist attraction; and the fabulous Auroville bakery. What most people do not know is that a unique afforestation project began in Auroville in 1968 and today, as a result of that, the forest area there is a distinctive example of eco-restoration.
Christoph Pohl’s documentary Ever Slow Green tells the story of Auroville’s 50-year-young forest through some of the people who have nurtured the land and dedicated their lives to developing it. The film premiered at the Auroville Film Festival 2020, and won the Best Director — Documentary Award at the Rishikesh International Film Festival 2020, going on to win several other awards.
The producer, director and editor of the film, Pohl, is a resident of Auroville and first came to the township in 2004. He travelled in South India and the place continued to beckon him long after he went back to his home in Germany. Two years later he returned and finally in 2008, decided to make Auroville his home and found himself deeply fascinated by the man-made forest. He said, “The forest in Auroville is one of the first things that impressed me when I learnt that these forests are all man-made and there was nothing in the beginning. I couldn’t really believe it. Up till then, when I had been in a forest I felt that it had always been here and it will always be here, so I wasn’t aware that in the relatively short span of 40 years, it was possible to create a forest as such. That was very impressive.”
A co-steward of one of Auroville’s forests, Pohl became immersed in the work and the idea of making a film on this topic eventually began to take shape. “A few years after I arrived in Auroville, I was lucky to find a place to settle in one of the small forest communities here and through that, I also got involved in forest work. With my professional background in media…I had a dream that I wanted to do a feature film. Over time, these two things came together and the idea came to make a feature film on the unique history of these forests and the trigger to actually do it was the 50th anniversary of Auroville, where some funds were available and they were asking for project proposals and that, for me, was the starting point to really get up and start making this film,” he said.
Although reforestation is integral to the township, it does not get as much publicity as it ideally should. “I had the feeling that the aspect of reforestation is underrepresented. There are lots of films and media reports about Auroville, which is a very complex place and project. Sometimes when I show this film, people think that this is all there is in Auroville and I have to explain that there is so much more but this is what I have decided to focus on,” he said.