Underscoring the urgent need to “speak up and act on” climate emergency, the ongoing first annual All Living Things Environmental Film Festival (ALT EFF) is beaming a bouquet of 33 films on social and environmental issues. The event also features 11 live shows to drive home the message. The virtual film festival, which concludes on December 13, is the brainchild of social entrepreneur and permaculturist Kunal Khanna. Originally conceived as a physical event in Maharashtra’s Panchgani, the week-long festival attempts to focus on sustainability for which the organisers have roped in passionate environmentalists, including wildlife and environment filmmaker Mike Pandey.
Apart from Indian films such as Coral Woman, Log Drum, and Treasures of Grasslands, the festival will also screen a wide international palette, featuring flicks from South Africa, Germany, Madagascar and UK, USA, Republic of Guinea, and Mozambique. The films mostly explore wildlife, conservation, indigenous and tribal culture, urbanisation, ocean ecosystems, afforestation and community development, among other issues.
In a chat with indianexpress.com, Khanna gives us a sneak peek into the festival, which also has a line-up of events, including a panel discussion on issues such as human-animal conflict, wildlife filmmaking, investigative journalism, sustainable tourism, along with masterclasses on storytelling, filmmaking, animation and zero-waste living, among others.
What was the thinking behind the film festival?
In my 13 years of living and working in Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia, I gained an understanding and appreciation for the power of the arts and cultural events in shifting human perceptions and outlook. Film is an extremely powerful medium and holds the potency to emotionally touch everyone. In Panchgani, we have the unique opportunity to bring people to an eco-sensitive zone and provide a platform both to evoke a sense of connection to nature and create awareness about the climate emergency the planet is in, currently.
You mention about making “small changes” to our lives to combat climate change. But does that end up becoming only a small drop in a mighty ocean?
There’s an old saying, the largest ocean consists of many small drops of water. The movement (for addressing climate change) is growing stronger every day and individuals have the power to change their behaviours, every moment of every day. It starts with a mental shift and a raised consciousness. There is no point in making ourselves small – we are infinitely capable to create lasting change. It all starts with our own individual selves and ripples out to our families and communities. Use your voice, support the cause, look around and seek opportunities to make a change at all levels accessible to you.
While this has been a trying year for most of us; the festival co-founders Neha Shreshta, Marie-Luise Schega, Rudransh Mathur and I believe that this year has also given us an incredible opportunity to pause, rethink, recalibrate and adopt changes in both our outlook and way of life. And we must seize the same to make small changes in order to imagine and create an ecologically conscious future.
As a social entrepreneur, what do you think is lacking when it comes to sustainable living?
Greenhouse gases and renewable energy dominate the conversation about climate change
and sustainability, and while this is important, we also need to start placing ourselves in the systems we exist in.
Elaborate systemic changes make it hard for us to adapt to sustainable ways of preventing climate change – we can often feel powerless in shifting the needle on a large scale. The most important conversations our youth can have are about creating alternative and resilient systems at micro, small and medium scale – thinking about the embodied energy in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the waste we create, the lives our actions impact and so on.
Can films pave the way for taking real action on the ground?
The first and largest challenge we need to tackle is the one within our own selves. The festival aims to awaken our own knowledge on what it is to be human upon this earth and make us critically reflect and question our individual behaviours, as consumers and as co-inhabitants of this planet. The emotive power of film is the way to lead us down this path of questioning and reflecting – it must start in the heart. Climate change and the current climate emergency does not have a target audience. Becoming aware of the real issues of our times and feeling inspired to make changes to address them is everyone’s responsibility.