As the COP22 Film4Climate Global Video Competition begins, the mood is somber: it's the end of the first week of the Conference of Parties and just five days after the announcement of Trump’s election win. While uncertainty and fear for the future are palpable, there's also a sense of hope, as this is where the efforts for taking action on climate change merge with the creative medium of filmmaking.
Part of the World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate initiative, the Film4Climate competition features the winners of various categories for under-one-minute PSA videos, and short films under five minutes. Winning productions portray both singular and comprehensive, oftentimes highly self-made movies that reflect the realities of and actions taken by many on the ground.
“It’s extremely important to use your voice and your reach to explain what’s at stake,” says Professor and director of Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, during his opening speech. “The people that want their grubby hands on the steering wheel in Washington are ExxonMobil and Chevron and people who bought this [American] election,” he says. Citing “the names that are being kicked about in the US media”—including Trump’s selection of Myron Ebell to oversee the EPA transition team—Sachs expounds a stern but necessary reminder of the battle ahead. “It’s fine to be ignorant, just don’t do it in Washington. Because we’ve got important things to do, and we really don’t have time for really greedy, nasty, or completely scientifically ignorant people to be anywhere near decision-making right now.”
This year’s COP is also the CMA1, which is the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. Beyond the policies for implementation that everyone hopes will be successful here, it will take more than these efforts to raise the necessary awareness, funding and collective drive to face the behemoth of global warming.
“They know how to do the old stuff,” Sachs notes of certain powerful players, “and we have to show the new stuff.” Throughout the Film4Climate event, this “new stuff” is portrayed through themes like carbon sequestration and reforesting, simple but straightforward imagery of global warming’s dire and dangerous effects, and stories of small yet powerful efforts being made by communities around the world. One film, A Sun At Night, won the short film “Young Award” and tells the story of how solar lamps replaced oil-burning lamps on one Indian street. It was entirely narrated, edited, and directed by 15 year-old Rameshwar Bhatt.
Environmentally-rooted crises like those in Syria and Standing Rock show that profit-driven interests consistently take political precedence over the protection of human lives and civil rights, and it is no longer realistic to count solely on a few politicians or legislators to take responsibility and mobilize for change. The globalized status quo possesses “unbelievable momentum,” pillaging the planet and repeatedly exploiting land that is rightfully relied upon by many indigenous peoples for their livelihoods. “This juggernaut just keeps going straight,” Sachs continues, “and even when you see the cliff right ahead of you, it just keeps going!”
“So when you learn that [reality],” says Sachs, “you should steer it, just turn the wheel a bit.” Thus, the Film4Climate winners document the climate shifts and ecological burdens that come with unsustainable practices like fracking, deforestation, and burning fossil fuels. Materializing new solutions, the resounding message is clear: “It’s not good enough ever in a political battle like this just to talk about what's at stake. The only way to win a battle like this is to show what to do.”
“You have really important movies,” Sachs reminds the winners. “Reach out! Get the media, get the superstars, get the actors and actresses, get the people of talent in this world—and you are they,” he broadcasts to the few celebrated actors and directors in the audience, many of whom are jury members for the competition. Propelling filmmakers’ commitment to documenting and engendering evolutionary action, these videos rise above the passive observation and horror we often experience through Facebook newsfeeds and CNN push notifications. Implementing change means not just shifting our collective attention towards the realities of global warming, but our common attitude and action as well. Here at the Cinema Le Colisée theatre in Marrakech, filmmakers are committed to the decisions being made at the COP, trying to turn the wheel away from the impending climate cliff.
The World Bank Group’s 2016 Film4Climate Global Video Competition took place at Marrakech’s Cinema Le Colisée theatre on November 13, 2016 as part of the UNFCCC’s COP22. Film4Climate is an extension of the Connect4Climate effort, and all the winning videos can be found here.