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Student-run Film Festival Puts Focus on the Climate

By Gina Myers

Movie poster for 2040 next to movie poster for Mossville: When Great Trees Fall


November 16, 2021

To acknowledge and address the urgent global crisis of climate change, Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences declared 2021 Climate Year. One of the goals of Climate Year is to engage the community through public-facing climate and sustainability programs, which is exactly what students are doing by organizing a film festival.

Cinema for the Climate is coming to the Academy of Natural Sciences on Saturday, December 4. The festival is being completely organized and run by students enrolled in Climate Films & Advocacy, a course co-taught by Elizabeth Burke Watson, PhD, associate professor of biodiversity, earth and environmental science, and Ben Kalina, assistant professor of film and television in Westphal College of Media Arts and Design.

Cinema for the Climate will feature two films that students hope will inspire and educate, as well as entertain, those in attendance.

The day will begin with the family-friendly feature film 2040, in which Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau imagines what the future might look like if people were to embrace the best practices that exist today. Presented as a letter to his four-year-old daughter Velvet, the film talks to various experts and asks children from around the world what they would like the year 2040 to look like. The self-described “exercise in fact-based dreaming” offers hope in the fight against climate change. [View trailer.]

The second film is geared more toward an adult audience. Mossville: When Great Trees Fall is a documentary about the town of Mossville, Louisiana, which was founded by former slaves and was a thriving community for Black families until petrochemical plants moved in, poisoning the residents and forcing them off their land. The documentary is centered on one man, Stacey Ryan, and his refusal to abandon his family’s home as he fights the toxic corporate powers. [View trailer.]

The students in the class divided into several groups to work on the festival. The programming group was responsible for viewing films and then presenting them to the class before the class would decide together which movies to show.

“We had really good discussions about the films,” says Meghan Lynch, an environmental studies and sustainability major who is serving on the marketing committee. “For the first film, I hope it will inspire kids and families to be more involved in the fight against climate change. The second film will hopefully make people be more aware of environmental racism.”

Both films will be followed by discussions led by the students in which the audience can consider practices and solutions to climate change, as well as think about how environmental racism operates in Philadelphia.

In addition to the films and discussions, there will be climate awareness activities and representatives from local environmental organizations in attendance.

This is a free event for all.

Details: Cinema for the Climate is on Saturday, December 4, from 10:30 am – 4 pm at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Cost: free. Register here.