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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Harry

Climate change needs to be depicted on screen, yet filmmakers ignore it entirely.

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

If one took every brilliant movie from the last 20 years and examined them to paint a picture of our cultural values, what themes would emerge? What issues are consistently explored? Certainly issues of racial and gender equality, sexuality and social justice would stand out. Films increasingly tell stories of marginalised communities or examine the societal misdeed scarring our history.

Would it be clear, though, based on our films, that humanity faces an existential threat? Would it be conveyed that, facilitated by a profit-driven economic model, we're walking into a minefield of our own creation which could kill us all and certainly unravel every other social justice issue championed on our movie screens? Climate change, how it affects and drives us, is so unexamined on film that our continued ignorance of it further feeds our denial. A young filmmaker who isn't seeing stories foregrounding the climate is less likely to write one themselves.

We need a tipping point in the climate conversation. Climate change is a monster, and to fight monsters we must bring them into the light, make them unignorable. Filmmakers need to reflect the world as it is, rather than transplanting modern social issues onto a largely untarnished climate reminiscent of the last century. People care about the climate. We're worried about heatwaves and we think that oil executives should be deported to live on their own abandoned offshore rigs as a form of poetic justice. We know these things, but it's hard to collect those thoughts or translate them into a model for living our lives when our culture reassures us that the issue doesn't exist.

Filmmaking brings the climate crisis, and its culprits, into the public consciousness.

This isn't to say that every film needs to be a climate alarm bell, just that film needs to reflect that climate change is real. Right now I feel as though scientists and a small minority of journalists are the ones bringing this to public attention, while artists aren't pulling their weight in doing so. Progress is happening. BAFTA albert, the organisation holding productions accountable on their environmental credentials, rates productions highly when they include more climate themes, increasing their odds of being funded. Climate Spring is a funding body which EXCLUSIVELY funds short films relating to climate. This is good, but we need more. MORE. And we need it BEFORE total ecosystem collapse so we don't have to do it AFTER total ecosystem collapse. Then maybe one day, if we're lucky, culture will shift in such a way that oil executives are actually deported to live on their own abandoned offshore rigs, and it will be because a great film gave us the idea.

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