Along Sega who is seen in the film, who was probably in his 70s when he died on February 2, 2011, was the tribal leader of one of the last nomadic Penan groups in the Upper Limbang region of Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo; he fought a courageous, though ultimately futile, battle against the logging companies devastating his ancestral lands.
In 1984 Along befriended Bruno Manser who had travelled to the rainforest to live as one of the Penan. For six years, under Along’s guidance, Manser hunted with a blowpipe, lived off snake and monkey meat and helped the Penan in their struggle against the logging companies. In his 1996 book, Voices from the Rainforest, Manser noted: “Never once in the course of six years did I see a Penan interrupt another, let alone shout at or assault another. They are a people unsuited to confrontation.” But, beginning in 1987, the Penan and other Sarawak forest tribes organised blockades of the roads along which the logging trucks passed. The biggest of the protests lasted for eight months before being broken up by the police, but there was another wave of blockades in 1989. The bulldozers stood idle, the logging companies suffered losses, and hundreds of protesters were arrested.
The blockades were reported around the world, and the Penan became a cause célèbre. Prince Charles gave a speech in which he described the Penan as victims of genocide. To the Malaysian authorities, however, the protests were more than just an embarrassment; they represented a personal challenge to the notoriously prickly government of Mahathir Mohamad.
Casting round for someone to blame, the government seized on Manser, presenting him as a latter day white imperialist. Malaysian commandos hunted Manser through the jungle. Twice he was captured, and twice he escaped, before being smuggled out of Sarawak in 1990 to continue his campaign from Switzerland. In 2001 Manser returned to Sarawak to see his old Penan friends and make one last effort on their behalf. In the end of that trip he went missing. Many to this day suspect foul play.