Film festival encourages audiences to ‘face the facts’ on climate change

Melbourne is set to showcase the best films from around the word focussing on environmental issues, impacts, challenges and solutions, with the Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA) today announcing its 2018 program.

From a record 580 films submitted for selection in this year’s festival, a total of 43 films have been chosen from 16 countries, including a number of Australian feature and short films.

This year’s films focus on climate change, Indigenous voices, land conservation and animal rights – themes which are also captured in EFFA’s opening night film, National Geographic’s Into the Okavango.

Following an expedition to save one of the world’s last remaining wildlife habitats from human interference, Into the Okavango brings personal perspectives to global environmental challenges, proving a triumphant journey in the face of adversity.

Another highlight of the festival includes an In Conversation event with former Kiribati President, now acclaimed environmental campaigner, Anote Tong, following a screening of Anote’s Ark. Fresh from its international premiere at Sundance Film Festival, this captivating film follows Anote’s international campaign to highlight the dire impact of rising sea levels on Kiribati, with two of the Pacific nation’s atolls already submerged, and residents moving to neighbouring countries in a bid for survival.

Climate change is also explored in Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future, co-directed by Melbourne filmmaker, Jordan Osmond, who will attend the festival for a Q&A and screening. Largely filmed in New Zealand, this film features global experts while offering local solutions to reducing environmental impacts via small, everyday changes.   

Personal stories of courage, hope, desperation and despair feature heavily in this year’s festival.

The Reluctant Radical charts an impassioned battle by American activist Ken Ward to challenge the fossil fuel industry at great personal cost, while Dark Eden captures the high price people pay to work at one of the world’s largest oil reserves, the Athabasca Oil Sands, despite the financial incentives.  

The impacts of industrial pollution are captured in The Devil We Know, which highlights the devastation caused by chemicals used in Teflon – today found in the bloodstream of 99% of all Americans – while Welcome to Sodom immerses us in the lives of those working at one of the world’s largest e-waste dumps – a place so damaged it appears to be a post-apocalyptic world.

Animal rights and the threat to natural habitats are also strong themes of this year’s festival. When Lambs Become Lions captures the toll of ivory hunting on those who pursue and protect against this outlawed practice, Bird Of Prey follows a 30-year campaign to save the Philippine Eagle from extinction, and The Milk System examines the global forces behind Europe’s pursuit of industrial food production, and the impact on agricultural, human and animal health.

Amongst stories highlighting the plight of the environment, this year’s festival also reminds us of the beauty which remains in untouched landscapes. Free of narrative, The Ancient Woods captures animals in one of Lithuania’s last remaining old growth forests, while slow cinema feature, Sleep Has Her House, filmed entirely on an iPhone, reminds us to enjoy the stillness of the forest in the dark. Presented as a ‘chill out’ session, Sleep Has Her House will include a live musical accompaniment by classically trained pianist and composer, Rose Riebl.   

We are also reminded to look to the past in order to look to the future, with The Experimental City offering a visionary outlook from scientist Althestan Spilhaus’ 1960s America – a story of ambitious sustainability plans quashed by sceptical politicians, scientists and members of the public.

For those wanting to fully immerse themselves in the issues at hand, this year’s Virtual Reality experience offers four climate change stories from around the world: Melting Ice explores Greenland’s glacial ice sheets; Fire journeys into California’s wildfires; Feast ventures into the heart of Brazil’s cattle farms which threaten the Amazon; and Famine is set in a crowded refugee camp, where climate change has destroyed once-fertile lands.  

The impact of climate change on land – as well as sovereignty – is also explored in The Panguna Syndrome, which charts the continuing fallout of Papua New Guinea’s Panguna Mine and the Bougainville Crisis, and Stella Polaris Ulloriarsuaq, which captures Greenland’s ice sheets literally melting before our eyes, and the colonialist forces capitalising on changes to Indigenous communities as a result of this.  

Closer to home, As Worlds Divide sees filmmaker, Rob Henry, move from Melbourne to the Indonesian islands of Mentawai. Fully immersing himself in the Indigenous culture over a period of eight years – an antidote to the ‘rat race’ which he left behind – Rob will attend a Q&A after the screening at this year’s festival, sharing his experience of living two very different lives.

Australian short films, which will screen ahead of feature films, also form a highlight of this year’s festival, with eight short filmmakers in attendance. Highlights include Water is Life, documenting Aboriginal communities fighting against fracking plans in the Northern Territory.

A series of experimental films and international short films round out the festival’s program, exploring everything from ‘plastic kingdoms’ (The Fourth Kingdom) to the lives of whales (Blau), along with EFFA’s Education Program, featuring The Clean Bin Project for primary school students, and Inventing Tomorrow for secondary students.

EFFA Co-Director, Chris Gerbing, said:

“The volume and calibre of films submitted for EFFA 2018 highlight new perspectives and world-wide growth in environmental filmmaking, and we’re delighted to bring the best films from home and abroad to Melbourne audiences.

“The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Face the Films’ linked with our call for the community to face the facts around climate change, face the future impacts of the decisions we make today, and face the films which are capturing the situation unfolding around the world.

“The past 12 months have seen unprecedented global and local movements and campaigns to greater protect our environment, starting with changing our everyday behaviours, such as banning single-use plastic bags.

“This is exactly the action EFFA encourages, and this year we’ll host a number of panel discussions with leading experts to encourage everyone to make changes – big and small – to help reduce their environmental impact.

“As one of our most ambitious festivals yet, I encourage everyone – from committed activists to the ‘enviro-curious’ – to come to EFFA. It’s a welcoming festival which provides a range of films and experiences to engage with environmental issues, and spark a conversation about the action needed to help curb the alarming trends we are seeing in environmental change around the world.”

EFFA 2018 will screen at ACMI and Palace Westgarth Cinema from 11 – 19 October. For the full program and ticketing information visit: www.effa.org.au