Change Through Film

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Three new documentaries tackle the topic of water as they attempt to thrust the realities of climate change into the minds of the world.

The messages are certainly out there – they’re everywhere – but all too often talk of climate change, melting polar ice caps, species extinction and the like falls on ears that are not deaf but certainly hard of hearing. Three dynamic new documentaries tackle very different societies and solutions but share a common theme – the importance of water. Whether it’s rising sea levels, water shortages caused by overconsumption, or polluted lakes and rivers, issues relating to water play the leading lady in these thought-provoking new flicks.

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Anote’s Ark focuses on the people of the Republic of Kiribati, a low-lying South Pacific island nation for whom rising ocean levels spell imminent annihilation. Whilst its President, Anote Tong, races against time to broker international climate treaties which could help save Kiribati, a parallel story unfolds as a young mother of six, Sermary Tiare, makes the weighty decision to relocate her family to New Zealand. 

Three new documentaries tackle the topic of water as they attempt to thrust the realities of climate change into the minds of the world.

Filmmaker Matthieu Rytz had to contend with many challenges, including Kiribati’s geographic isolation, a lack of electricity supply outside the capital, and the inability to buy basics such as batteries anywhere on the island whilst producing a thought-inspiring work that has appeared at both Sundance and Big Sky film festivals. 

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Rytz, a visual anthropologist by training, felt it was crucial to tell Kiribati’s story and to shed light on what he considers “a new phenomenon that goes way beyond national boundaries, our collective responsibility to take action against the global effects of climate change.”  

Three new documentaries tackle the topic of water as they attempt to thrust the realities of climate change into the minds of the world.

Across the Pacific, in Bali, Balancing the Waters presents a vision of how water resource challenges can be countered through technology, innovation, and sound business practices. Produced by directors Anton Goenechea and Falkwyn Goyeneche, and instigated by a passionate troupe of Bali-based expats including Sayan Gulino, CEO of the island’s Waterbom waterpark, Balancing the Waters explores Bali’s traditional 9thcentury irrigation system, in which spirituality and agriculture once went hand in hand. 

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This system, known as Subak, once sustainably managed the island’s precious water resources.  However, they have now become threatened by tourism development, population growth, and climate change, which collectively have driven Bali’s water table to dangerously low levels. Now, Waterbom’s management is looking to the traditions of Subak to develop a complex environmental management system that has seen the waterpark become the first carbon-neutral tourism operation in Bali. 

Three new documentaries tackle the topic of water as they attempt to thrust the realities of climate change into the minds of the world.

Gulino, a visionary who has led the charge towards sustainable development on the holiday island, says that the documentary’s lessons are universally relevant. “By focusing on Bali’s plight, this documentary presents us with the current state of affairs regarding water in our modern world, and what we can do to turn this potentially disastrous situation into a prosperous one”.

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Turning disasters into prosperity is a message which is shared by Inventing Tomorrow. This inspiring documentary follows six teenagers from across the world as they develop cutting-edge solutions to combat the environmental destruction being wrought in their hometowns and local regions. As they prepare their projects for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest gathering of high school scientists in the world, viewers join the group as the students navigate the difficulties of adolescence and strengthen their determination to change the future. 

Three new documentaries tackle the topic of water as they attempt to thrust the realities of climate change into the minds of the world.

One of the issues tackled by 16-year-old Sahithi Pingali is extreme water pollution in her hometown of Bangalore, India, an issue that became paramount after the lake behind her house burst into flames. Now she works on citizen-led technological solutions to reduce the dumping of raw sewage into open water. “Our student scientists”, says director Laura Nix, “are observing the damaged planet they’ve inherited, asking the right questions, and inventing solutions to create a path forward.”

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Despite the bleak mantra of climate change, these insightful documentaries contain a cautious optimism for the future. A deep passion for protecting our world is a shared thread running through all three projects, providing hope for global, interconnected solutions to climate change and perhaps a message that can finally be heard by the world.

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About Author

Phoebe Taylor is from the UK and is currently based between Korea and the Philippines. She writes about travel, arts and culture, and the environment. When she’s not writing, you can find her eating her way around town, attempting to learn new languages, or listening to weird live music.

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