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Climate Future Film Festival: A Breath of Scarce Air

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer

Last weekend, I went to the Jamestown Arts Center with my father for the Climate Future Film Festival. Hosted by a friend of ours named R. Jim Stahl, better known by his stage name, The Monocular Man (He is blind in one eye, hence the name), this two hour event showcases 10 films made on four different continents. The films shown focused on how artists and other activists are addressing climate change. Honorary Judge Bill McKibben, one of the most prominent modern environmentalists and the founder of Third Act, an organization that helps seniors fight climate change, gave an in-screen introduction. The night I went was the film festival’s premiere before going on tour around the world.

The first film that hit me hard was “The Operator,” a British film directed by Matt Riley. In this 20 minute narrative piece, the attendant in charge of an outer space relay station receives an urgent intergalactic call from a woman in need of dire assistance. She’s trapped on a research base with little to no supplies and is running out of oxygen. My heart was pounding. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the operator’s frantic attempts to save this caller and the other stranded survivors before time runs out.

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The second film that stunned me was a one minute and seven second comedy by Rhode Island director Ryan Vemmer. Titled “Calamity TV,” the comedy sketch features a movie pitch wherein the plot is climate change and the person pitching it is played by the director himself. Despite being a short film, the jokes were quick, cutting and sharp and the pacing was remarkable. It never let up for a second, hitting the audience with the truth about how corporations exploit climate change and how sensationalized the issue has become. A masterpiece if ever I’ve seen one.

The third film that struck a personal chord with me was “Sacrificed” by Canadian director David Sanchez. This 12 minute and 43 second documentary features a rebellious high schooler’s battle for a cleaner world. Her crowd-drawing demonstrations worry the teen’s parents who don’t want her to get arrested and try to encourage potentially safer alternatives. As a current generation young adult that is passionate about climate change, this is the film I related the most to. I could see both sides of the debate between the girl and her family. I’ve also struggled to be heard and understood by my parents, no matter how hard I try. Blunt and grounded, this movie is a rallying cry for young adults who want a brighter tomorrow.

“I Was Just a Child” by Filipino director Breech Asher Harani was one of the three films that stole the show. A five-minute and 55 second film, it conveys through shadow puppets what it was like for the child narrator to live through the calamitous Super Typhoon Bopha disaster of 2012. My heart broke as I heard how this young girl had to sift through the wreckage and wade amongst countless bodies on the streets in a desperate struggle to survive. Her voice needed to be heard, as up to that point Bopha had escaped my notice. I’m likely not the only one who was unaware of the devastation and its aftermath. “I Was Just a Child” is a brave and powerful story that doesn’t hold back.

The next film, “The Sprayer,” by Iranian director Farnoosh Abedi, also doesn’t pull its punches. Tears came to my eyes as I watched this eight-minute and 45 second short about gas-masked soldiers roaming through a post-apocalyptic city. One of these soldiers, tasked with killing any remaining plant life he finds, stumbles across something that changes everything. A heartwarming adventure about how unending conflict has crippled our planet’s ecosystem and left countless destitute, it's one that can’t be missed.

Finally, “Ola Ka Honua,” is a 22 minute animated film by Australian director Jilli Rose. A masterwork about Maui, a place which may be unmatched when it comes to deforestation. On the island of Auwahi, the local community is working to restore their precious trees. Rose paints a gorgeous tapestry about pushing forwards despite the odds and bringing green back to a tarnished homeland. This was a perfect piece to end the evening on.

Overall, this was a deeply moving experience. I’ve already been fervently wanting to fight climate change, to the extent that it's been a topic of heavy research. This galvanized me. I want to fight now, no matter what. I want to get out there in the world and make a difference. I gave every film I’ve talked about an A+, but the ones I didn’t mention were just as impactful and meaningful. Go see the Climate Future Film Festival when it goes on tour — it will change your life, too.


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