Hugh Wilson, the manager of the Hinewai Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary in the southeast corner of New Zealand's Banks Peninsula, is a man on a mission. An impassioned botanist with grand ambitions, he was growing tired of witnessing the destruction of nature's splendor. When he announced his plans to reverse these tides of decay, he was met with widespread ridicule and scorn. The infectious documentary Fools and Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest offers a lovely portrait of this inspiring and good-natured man, and a tribute to the resilient power of nature.
Wilson developed a deep interest in birds and plant life from an early age, and it's a passion that has stayed with him throughout the course of his life. When he was presented with an opportunity to assist in regeneration efforts, he chose a patch of nearly 4,000 acres of native forest that were replete with rolling hills of brilliant emerald, teeming waterfalls, and night skies filled with boundless stars.
Wilson's regeneration project involved the use of gorse, a plentiful shrub that most residents in the area regarded as a pesky weed. The community - especially the farmers - thought he was crazy. But while it's considered a nuisance to effective farming, gorse can be employed as a powerful engine to promote regeneration. It speeds up the process, paving the way for greater biodiversity and ensuring the conservation of vegetation and wildlife. The experiment worked far faster and more robustly than anyone could have expected.
The film's narrative is molded by Wilson's ecologic philosophy. In his view, humans have become far too adept at destroying things. Instead, they should learn to stand back and let nature run its own course. Technology can only take you so far, and too often sways us from our appreciation of the basic building blocks of everyday life. He does not preach his position to others as much as he lives it.
Fools and Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest is an affectionate acknowledgement of one man's vision for the planet. In his own little corner, Wilson has truly made a difference. Perhaps his greatest contribution lies in his ability to inspire others to follow his lead.
Directed by: Jordan Osmond, Antoinette Wilson