25 September 2017
Home H2O Film Festival marks International year of forests

H2O Film Festival marks International year of forests

I had no idea that 2011 was the international year of forests. But as always I found out about because of a film festival. 35mm movie theatre right here in Moscow will be showing a number of films that are all about being green and eco-friendly or at least eco-aware.

First there’s Of Forests and Men which is the official film of the international year of forests. It was filmed by a very well known photographer and director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It’s really interesting to see his name on the list actually because I remember buying one of his books when I was a student in art school. It was The Earth from Above and I remember that I was fascinated by it. It had some amazing shots taken from a plane of different countries. It’s really stunning. The film that will be shown here in Moscow is a 7-minute short film on forests and it’s filled with his famous aerial images. They were taken from Home and the Earth from Above television series. 

The other film on offer is Crude by Joe Berlinger. This is an American documentary film which tells the story of one of the most intricate and notorious litigation cases. It was called the "Amazon Chernobyl" and basically what happened was 30,000 Native Ecuadorians filed a class action suit against the U.S. oil giant Chevron. In this lawsuit they accused the company’s refineries of polluting the water, air and land over 30 years. As a result, their clean forests turned into a huge "dead zone". In this film, the director and his team traced how this legal battle unfolded, and it went from a local issue to an international concern. The effects of fossil fuel consumption have been in the spotlight quite a lot recently ad the film focuses on how people’s dependence on crude costs lives. Another important element is how hard it is to get business to be held accountable for their actions. That's what the Crude documentary offers.

Next we have a Canadian production and that is called The Green Chain. This is a drama and it’s about a group of people who love trees. One claims that he cannot live without forests. The other character is an activist and she also loves forests and she tries to teach her grandkids the difference between forests and artificially grown trees. Then we have a firefighter who also loves the woods and tries to protect them during the summer season. 

There is also a celebrity who travels to a small Canadian town to raise awareness of protecting trees. The goal of the director here was to illustrate the difficult ecological situation in Canada. And how he does that is by having seven monologues about the forest and the trees told by people with very different viewpoints on the issue.

Moving on we have another documentary and that No Impact Man from the U.S. This one is about a New Yorker who decides to conduct an experiment. So what is that experiment? Well, he decides to spend one year doing absolutely anything ad everything he can so as not to harm the environment. That means not using electricity, not driving a car, not buying manufactured goods, and not producing waste. Instead he recycles, walks, and eats local and seasonal food. The problem is his wife loves coffee, shopping and television. So this is a look at how this man will try to go through with his plan while making sure he doesn’t lose his wife in the process. It’s actually a very interesting documentary.

Next we have Into Eternity, a documentary from Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Italy. This film focuses on nuclear power plants. It’s no secret that these plants produce huge quantities of radioactive waste that are placed in temporary storage. These storage facilities are of course vulnerable to natural as well man-made disasters. The world's first permanent storage area of radioactive waste is being made in Finland. It’s made up of many tunnels where the waste can apparently be stored for 100,000 years. Basically as long as the materials remain radioactive. When the vault is full, it is sealed and never opened. Here’s the catch though. How sure can we be that future generations will realize how dangerous this is? Where’s the guarantee that someone will not open it? How can we know that our language and symbols will be understood thousands of years from now? Plus, what’s to stop them from thinking it’s another pyramid or a mysterious tomb? So while the construction of the storage is taking place experts are trying to address all the risks that are associated with this project. The film is trying to show the problems of this idea and how dangerous it can become for future generations.

The City Dark is another documentary from America. This is about an exploration of an amateur astronomer who moves from Maine to New York and discovers that the city is missing stars. And when I say stars I mean the stars in the sky. Just thought I’d specify that since I think some of us have forgotten the actual meaning of stars nowadays. The director who is our amateur astronomer by the way explores whether the loss of stars is associated with the loss of light. He examines how light pollution affects the planet as well as people. The film has six chapters and it’s not just the director’s thoughts. There is a lot of scientific data combined with personal reflections. All this helps to make us more aware of the meaning of darkness in human life. This sounds very intriguing. I personally never thought about light being affected by pollution or how people are affected by it actually. So this is definitely one to look out for.

Next we have Death of a Forest. This is about the effects of global warming in North America. Apparently beetles have become able to survive the winter. As a result millions of acres of forests in the west of the U.S. and Canada are suffering from a beetle infestation. The problem is so big that experts predict that by 2012 80% of coniferous forests in the region will disappear. That’s a very scary statistic right there. Now that’s why I think it’s so important to have these films to raise these issues and perhaps get someone to listen and help change things around.

Anyway, let’s move on to the other film which is The Detour. This one is narrated by Robert Redford and it’s the story of the struggles of a young Polish activist. She’s fighting against her own government as well as the European Union. What’s her problem you might ask? Well, she’s against the construction of a highway through a local river. She claims it will cause irreparable damage to the local wildlife. In this film we see how she’s trying to raise awareness to this issue and we see if anyone listens to her concerns.

Next we have The Law of the Jungle also narrated by Robert Redford. This is about two activists from a small South American country. The people here are also fighting against something just like the woman in the previous film. They set up a movement to prevent the chopping of local trees. Their fight leads to a court declaring that indigenous and tribal peoples have the right to control the use of natural resources in their territory. That’s a pretty amazing story. It just shows you what you can do and achieve by standing up for what you believe is right and fighting against what you think is wrong. Definitely an inspiration to fellow activists. 

There’s also Into the Inferno: The Science of Fire -  a documentary about the dry fires of California. It tells us how the state is losing billions of dollars and sometimes even lives and how the history of forestry throws wood into the fires.

Next we have Switch Today which is a one minute clip educating us about toilet paper. Yeap that’s right. It’s supposed to encourage us to use toilet paper from recycled waste paper which doesn’t has nothing to do with trees and therefore saves forests.

That’s followed by The Ancient Forests which was made by Greenpeace UK and is narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough, Ewan McGregor, Andy Serkis. This tries to make us look at the world through the eyes of animals. The film asks the question, “Can you imagine your house collapsing and disappearing right before your eyes?” And the answer to that is, it happens to animals that live in forests all around the world every single day. Actually forget about every single day. According to statistics every two seconds a forest the size of a football field is destroyed. This threatens the lives of homeless gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees and they risk complete extinction in the near future. I don’t know about you but I always think of animals as having their own little lives, with homes friends and family. I know it’s been documented in several books and documentary films. I keep meaning to watch one of them because I find the subject very interesting. But it's true that while we can do something to change our life, they obviously don’t have a say in anything, even their natural habitat which I would say belongs more to them than us.

Voices of the Forest: Thailand is about a village in Thailand that got the right to manage its own natural resources. That was twenty years ago. The main element about this agreement was that it could manage the last surviving mangrove forests in Thailand. The local community fought for this privilege by doing absolutely everything in their power. Unfortunately, now all this is changing. As it stand now, everyone has a say in making decisions about forest conservation. And that it includes developers. This film explores how the locals see the future of their forests and whether they think their fight back then was meaningless.

Moving on we have Wild Places: Banff National Park. This is actually the oldest national park of Canada. The film explores the necessity of wilderness told through the eyes of three Park employees from different backgrounds, each of whom have a special connection to the back country of Banff National Park. The film shows them talking about the need to preserve pristine areas.

And finally we have Hope in a Changing Climate and this is a more optimistic film in that it shows how we can reconstruct what’s been damaged. The film demonstrates that there is an opportunity to restore damaged ecosystems, salvage their lost functions and dramatically improve people's lives who have been living in poverty for generations. I think this is a great message by the way. Sometimes people can’t be bothered to do something to protect the environment because they think it’s a lost cause. But this is a great example of how it’s never to late to change your habits and help other people in the process.

So these are the films that are part of the H2O festival here in Moscow. But it’s not just films on offer. There’s also an exhibition, seminars and a presentation. Let’s start with the exhibition. This is a display of the National Geographic magazine and in it visitors will see the amazing work of photographer Nick Nichols and the senior editor of National Geographic. What they did is astonishing. They were planning this shoot for about a year. They put a rope between two trees and put blocks on it that would support three cameras. When the camera moved down, the photographer was on the ground and took pictures from a distance using a laptop. After three weeks of hard work they managed to get 84 pictures out of which they got to create a full size shot of a gigantic tree. The senior editor of National Geographic then spent hours to combine all the shots into what became part of an amazing display.

So that’s the photo exhibition. But there are also seminars. One is called "The forest: a resource or an asset?" Here we will hear from leading scientists and representatives of the Federal Forestry Agency, as well as other organizations dedicated to forest conservation. They will talk about how renewable forest resources are, and why we should be proud of our forests. Then there will be a seminar on "Forest. People. Fire ". This is about how we can prevent forest fires and if that’s possible. Also how to deal with the consequences once it happens. Let’s not forget that last year Russia had a huge issue with forests fires so this is a topic that is really important for us right now. We are all hoping that we won’t see a repeat of that this year because it was really unbearable. In this seminal there will also be scholars and representatives from forest organizations as well as Greenpeace. They will talk about forest fires and their environmental, climatic and economic consequences. They will discuss what to do and what not to do in case of fire detection. And most importantly in my opinion they will tell us how people can join a movement of volunteers to fight forest fires.

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