Programmer’s Picks

This year EFF'A’s programming team watched more than 2,500 hours of film content to bring you the very best environmental films from around the world!

We asked our Program Manager, Nathan Senn, for his top three picks.

They are Swarm Season, The Time of Forests and Titixe.

Despite their diversity, these thought-provoking films each highlight the connections of people to place, and their commitment to tackling the changes taking place around them.

Swarm Season

Far from your traditional environmental-activism documentary, Swarm Season gently unfurls its tri-part narrative structure to examine our natural world in both micro and macrocosm. Putting side-by-side the telluric and the cosmic, spiritual and scientific, and the individual and universal, the film artfully guides us to consider the very future of human existence on Earth. 

Set on mainland Hawaii, Swarm Season is anchored by 10-year-old Manu and her mother, who collect wild, endangered bees in the hope of breeding disease-resistant colonies. Meanwhile, her father is part of a group of Indigenous activists who are protesting against the construction of a giant telescope on Mauna Kea - a site that that is deemed of sacred origin.On a neighbouring mountain, we also follow six NASA scientists training for the possibility of long-time space survival in conditions reflecting those on Mars.

A highly impressionistic and sensory experience, the film recalls the work of Terrence Mallick in both its scope and visual splendour. Ambitious, expansive and thought-provoking, Swarm Season will beguile lovers of cinema and offer the more environmentally-minded a highly unique perspective on some of the most pressing ecological concerns of our time. 

Time of the Forests

Immaculately lensed and a beautiful example of the power of slow-cinema, Time of the Forests is the rare kind of film that doubles as both a great work of art and an eye-opening environmental asseveration. 

With both great heart and intellect, the film considers how a confluence of late capitalist thought and modern technological advancements has brought about a kind of hyper-industrialisation that is rapidly changing the face of contemporary forestry. Far from the lush, verdant and expansive forests of our imaginations, the film situates us amongst the forests of France’s globalised economy: denuded monocultures, chemically fertilised, sprayed with pesticides, and grown purely to be clear-cut. However, there is hope to be found amongst this destruction, with activists who are championing traditional and sustainable forestry management techniques providing stirring resistance. 

As harvesting machines perform a hypnotic ballet and workers grapple with their own impending obsolescence, the film also delves into the social and human costs of a system that places profit above its people. Time of the Forests presents a visually mesmerising and emotionally rousing insight into one of the world’s most significant industrial threats to our environment, while maintaining a sense of optimism and solution-based thinking along the way.

Titixe 

Perhaps the most lyrical and profound film in this year’s line-up, Titixe certainly had the largest emotional impact on members of the Programming Team. The film follows director Tania Hernández Velasco as she turns her camera inwards to investigate the importance of tradition, inheritance and preserving cultural practice in ongoing environmental stewardship. 

An at times sublime, cinematic tone-poem, Velasco’s film takes place shortly after the death of her grandfather, the last in a long line of peasant farmers, whose intimate knowledge of the land has sadly disappeared with him. Without any practical experience, Velasco, her Mother and Uncle undertake one last traditional harvest in an attempt to honour her Grandfather’s legacy and to try and sustain the vestiges of traditional farming practice that were once so vital to her ancestors way of life.

Embodying a deeply diaristic and personal form of filmmaking that masterfully utilises rhythmic montage and evocative closeups to tell its story,Titixe also serves as a heartfelt rumination on the way in which global paradigms of progress can often lead to the loss of traditional forms of knowledge and ways of seeing the world. At its heart, Titixe is a cautionary tale about the disavowal of inter-generational wisdoms, the fragility of the family tree, and the importance of maintaining one’s cultural identity in the face of great societal change.