Greed, Need & Climate Change

Images of Sudan staggering on painful legs brought tears to my eyes. At the sight of his painful, oozing sores the tears flowed down my cheeks. And when Sudan was finally euthanised to the obvious distress of his carers, I had to mop my chin and blow my nose. What made Sudan’s death more tragic was the fact that he was the last male northern white rhino – in the world – to die. The species was effectively extinct. And then, wonderfully, the veterinarians who attended Sudan’s last moments withdrew his DNA. And with this DNA will be able to resurrect the species. Good news from bad. But I have to wonder: when this magnificent creature once again browses the grasslands of Kenya (or elsewhere) will it be as relentlessly hunted as before? After all, man’s greed and concomitant need is something that has yet to be addressed.

This children’s book by Dr Seuss promotes care for the environment

I had been watching Sudan’s story in the form of a documentary called Kifaru (kifaru is the Swahili for rhinoceros) which was screened at the 2019 Durban International Film Festival. Another festival documentary that highlighted both the greed and the need of man was Mossville: When Great Trees Fall. Briefly, Mossville: When Great Trees Fall is the story of how Sasol established a refinery in the American town of Mossville. How Sasol’s gigantic, emissions-producing setup chased people from their homes, and gave them in return very little in compensation and a whole host of social and health problems. Sasol and other large companies continue seemingly unabated.

These and other documentaries show how humans are fuelled by both greed and need. And by consequence how climate change is also fuelled by both greed and need. These documentaries are distressing to watch. And messages about climate change that are coming thick and fast are also distressing. Bad news indeed. Glimmers of hope glow when scientists speak of climate change solutions in the form of renewable energy sources (see Climate Change: The Facts BBC Earth). But even these messages are confusing. Visit Renewable Energy is a Scam  and see possible drawbacks of renewables. The speaker in this video is pro-nuclear as an alternate source of energy.

Views of Germany’s Rhine River and Mainz. Germany is committed to denuclearisation within the next decade.

One climate change solution posed in the BBC programme stands out for me, however. Stem our throwaway culture. This solution I think addresses – at least ideologically – one half of the world’s greed, the other half’s need, and what both greed and its concomitant need have done to accelerate climate change.

Now that you’re here,

the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear,

UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.

(from The Lorax, Dr Seuss)

 

 

German Films Undo Stereotypes at DIFF 2017

There was a ‘German Focus’ at this year’s Durban International Film Festival. Ten German films were screened as part of this focus. Lien Heidenreich-Seleme of the Goethe-Institut explained that the institute’s goal was to ‘undo stereotypes through visual storytelling’. There remained a general impression, said Heidenreich-Seleme, that German cinema was highly political and serious. The new filmmakers wanted to break that stereotype.

Well, I think they did a good job. I saw three of the ten and can recommend all of them. Humour, sensitivity, quirkiness, captivating cinematography and unique storytelling featured in various degrees in the films I watched.

Goodbye Berlin is the story of two fourteen-year-old boys (Tshick and Maik) who form an unlikely friendship one summer. Both social outsiders, the boys have absent/no parents and look for belonging and to be special to someone. They take matters into their own hands when they fail to be invited to a popular girl’s party, steal a car and set off across Germany in search of some mythical place. Along the way they forge a friendship that will ostensibly last a lifetime, discuss deep life issues, and develop a confidence that (Maik certainly) didn’t have before.

Another film that centred on friendship was The Most Beautiful Day. In this story two men in their thirties dying from incurable diseases meet at a hospice. Throwing caution out of the window the two go on a stealing spree, trade in the goods for cash and then set off on an African adventure. Apart from death the story touches on other sensitive issues like love, courage, commitment and treasuring what is important. But it never gets sentimental. A little silly in places The Most Beautiful Day is nevertheless very funny and – of interest to South African viewers – features a strong South African element.

Paula is an altogether different film to the two above and tells the story of German painter Paula Becker. Paula was a free-spirited young woman in the early 1900s, determined to do the unacceptable for women, which was to: paint for a living and paint in her own unique style. She did this, eventually. The story of Paula’s art is told in parallel to her personal love life. The sexual tension throughout the film is evident and forms an integral part of why (according to the storytellers in this film) Paula painted what she did. Carla Juri who played Paula was absolutely brilliant and the cinematography throughout its German countryside and Paris setting flowed beautifully.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of the German Focus at the 2017 DIFF. I only hope these features make it to the mainstream cinema circuit in South Africa.

Source: IMDB

Radio Dreams

Durban International Film Festival 2016: Short, sharp reviews by Brenda Daniels

Radio Dreams

This film in Farsi with English subtitles is about a tiny Iranian radio station situated in San Francisco. Events take place over one day and centre almost solely within the walls of the station. Main anchor, Hamid, wants to promote purely Iranian fare, as well as his own artistic prowess. As such he eschews any American influence, almost subconsciously scuppering plans for the station to integrate with the community. The futile holding onto his long-gone homeland, makes Hamid a sad figure. Likewise, the blank stares of the other characters make this movie’s attempt at humour, a little sad.

Visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za for further screening times.

The Journeymen

Durban International Film Festival 2016: Short, sharp reviews by Brenda Daniels

The documentary, The Journeymen, was filmed solely on GoPro cameras strapped to the chests of three millennials, Sean Metelerkamp, Sipho Mpongo and Wikus De Wet. The South African friends – White English-speaking, White Afrikaans-speaking, and Black Xhosa-speaking men – examine the state of South Africa today, 20 years after democracy. They travel across South Africa into the less salubrious township areas, speak cross-culturally to its residents, and have difficult race-based and political conversations amongst themselves and with the people they meet. A brave and unique endeavour, The Journeymen, is both sobering and heartening to watch. Sobering because of the staggering problems so many people in this country face. Heartening because if these three young men are anything to go by, then perhaps we have a chance of making SA’s race relations work. Visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za for further screening times.

The truth about documentaries

By Brenda Daniels

I enjoy watching film documentaries. There’s something about “true”/factual stories that make me feel my viewing time is worthwhile. But of course even documentaries are framed in ways that influence their message, and hence their viewers. In other words, they’re not objective. In some, the construction of the story is more obvious than in others.

Two documentaries I watched at the 2015 Durban International Film Festival provide an example of different levels of “interference” in their making and presentation.

(Dis)honesty – The Truth about Lies (By Yael Melamede)

This film was particularly interesting and showed the reasons people lie. A group of scientists, headed by Dan Ariely, do a number of tests on people to discover when they lie and why. Ariely explains the tests and their results to viewers and this narration is interspersed with interviews with people who have all been imprisoned for the consequences of their lies.

Ariely is an engaging, humorous and non-judgmental speaker. He describes how people lie or “fudge” for reasons such as personal gain or distance from the indiscretion, and how they (read we) actually lie, for example; by justifying their actions or identifying with a peer group who are doing the same. After watching this documentary I was left knowing for sure that lying is an all-pervasive human trait, and that we are all capable of lying to the extent of committing a crime.

The “framing” of this documentary certainly achieved its aim with me!

Atlantic (by Jan-Willem)

Photo Source: http://www.film1.nl/films/42830-Atlantic.html

Atlantic is a different documentary altogether. Styled as a “reality” show, it follows the story of a Moroccan fisherman, Fettah, who takes up windsurfing. Friendships with visiting Europeans, and a longing for his mother who died at sea when he was just a child, compel Fettah to embark on an unusual journey. He packs a backpack and sets off on a trip of hundreds of miles – using only his windsurfer as transport.

The filming and sparse Arabic narration is lyrical in quality. I admired the simplicity with which Fettah managed to live his life at sea and when he came ashore – just a bottle of water, a bag of nuts and a tiny tent seemed to sustain him. But towards the end he encounters difficulties and is left in a desperate situation. Will he survive? Well of course we know he must have – he was being filmed after all and was never as alone as the documentary would have us believe!

Whilst I enjoyed the actual story, the obvious “interference” in the filming process of Atlantic left me with some doubts about the truth of this documentary.