People in Change

Kivalina © Savor Terra Films Documentary
64 Min.
USA, 2016
Gina Abatemarco

Kivalina is a small island in northern Alaska. The Inupiaq Eskimo people live here. Previously nomads, they were settled here by the US government about 100 years ago. They primarily make their living from whaling and fishing, and have a well-nigh religious attitude towards nature. Like almost all traditional societies, they seek to reconcile their cultural identity with modernity, including all the frustrations and conflicts this entails. Apart from this, the Inupiaq are having to deal with another, truly existential threat: due to climate change, their island of Kivalina will likely have disappeared into the sea by 2025. Storms and flooding have been increasingly destructive for years now. Einst Nomaden wurden sie vor etwa 100 Jahren von der US Regierung hier angesiedelt. One symbol of this hopeless struggle is the crumbling dam that reveals larger holes after every flood and with whose decay the US government has left them in the lurch. Increasingly warm temperatures also result in areas around Kivalina that in the past were covered with ice year-round are now utilisable by the oil industry – a deeply ironic and at the same time tragic consequence of climate change. For the Inupiaq there is practically no way out. Even for a resettlement both means and will are lacking.
The film makes use of a stunning pictorial language to make the Inupiaq accessible to us: the warmth of the families and the community contrast here with the harsh inhospitality of ice, cliffs and sea. The film succeeds in intimately portraying a small people that already had been forced into another way of life a hundred years ago, and whose existence is now once again being menaced by external forces. In addition to climate change and resource exploitation, "Kivalina" by extension also deals with economic colonisation and cultural ignorance. And also with adherence to a way of life in harmony with nature – something which in our civilisation has scarcely any place at all. The Inupiaq have nothing with which to fend off the blows of climate change and resource exploitation except an inner strength coming from a centuries-old way of life that respects both human beings and nature. The film lends this strength an impressive pictorial expression.


Savor Terra Films
New York, USA
Tel.: +1 645 5267142

Smangus: A Year in the Clouds Smangus: A Year in the Clouds Documentary film, UK/Taiwan, Dean Johnson/Frank Smith

The documentary film “Smangus: A Year in the Clouds” grants deep insight into the life of a group of indigenous people from the tribe of the Atayal who live high up in the mountains of Neiwan near Hsinchu, Taiwan. They lead a life that seems to comply with the ideals of a Chinese “people’s commune” or a “Utopia” of western philosophy. Their life consists of cooperative labour, common utilisation of the returns, joint administration and sharing of the collective success. In this they are following the wisdom of their forefathers and leading a life in harmony with nature.

A Year in the Clouds


PTS Foundation
International department

Off the Grid Off the Grid Documentary film, Netherlands 2011, Alexander Oey, 52 min.

The USA has been hard hit by the global economic crisis. Countless families are facing financial ruin. Some – and their numbers are increasing – are, however, trying to take their fate into their own hands and are fighting to gain a new economic and social independence from the global economy. A radio presenter goes self-sustaining and sets up his own water and electricity supply. A small town drafts a local development plan that deliberately rejects all concepts from outside. A region introduces its own local currency in order to strengthen the local economy. People who have become homeless in the crisis join forces in “tent towns” and organise themselves. It seems as if the economic crisis has activated a long dormant need and propelled it to the surface – the wish to regain control over one’s life and surroundings, to take responsibility and to organise one’s life in a sustainable manner.
The film travels to various places in the USA in search of forms of local autonomy inspired by the economic crisis. It becomes clear that the economic development of the past decades sacrificed individual autonomy, to a great extent, to a world market that as we now see is vulnerable to crises. Everywhere it seems that people are willing to live more modestly but wish to have more control over their own lives. The real alternatives to the environmental and economic crisis are to found at local level – OFF THE GRID shows inspiring examples of these alternatives. Off the Grid


Autlook Filmsales
Trappelgasse 4/17
A-1040 Vienna
Tel.: +43-720-346934

Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth Herz des Himmels, Herz der Erde Documentary film, Germany 2011, Frauke Sandig/Eric Black, 98 min.

The Mayan calendar allegedly predicts the end of the world for 2012. Western civilisation is celebrating this prophecy with gusto and gooseflesh in film and in the media. The Maya themselves - their tradition, their present situation – play virtually no role in this. The film HEART OF SKY, HEART OF EARTH is set in Guatemala and shows the life of the Maya, their rites and ceremonies, but above all the threats that now confront the Maya. A story from modern times that is dominated by genocide and expulsion. Western exploitation that - just as it did 500 years ago - sees the people as obstacles to the maximisation of profit and now in the form of gold mines and seed companies is seizing possession of the Maya’s habitat, water and nutrition.
In sensitive, authentic images the film showcases the confrontation between two contrasting concepts of life and nature – a world-view characterised by myths and dreams as opposed to a rationalist dominance culture. The resistance of the Maya against the destruction of their habitat seems hopeless, yet strength and wisdom emanate from their struggle. The film refrains from clichéd polemics against western civilisation as well from the glorification of the Maya. In the end this approach makes it all the clearer that the Maya’s prophecies of doom could come true: not, however, as a sudden Armageddon but as the result of creeping self-destruction.


Pifflmedien GmbH
Boxhagener Straße 18
10245 Berlin
Tel.: +49-30-29361629
Fax: +49-30-29361622

There once was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho There once was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho New Zealand/USA 2010, Briar March, 80 min.

Takuu is a tiny atoll in the South Pacific. Due to the rising sea level and the tectonic shift the island is sinking slowly but surely into the sea. For thousands of years the inhabitants have led a secluded life on their island and have preserved a rich culture, far removed from civilisation. They don’t know why the water is coming closer every year and is gradually washing over their villages. They have already lost much of their basic nutrition due to the salinisation of the soil, many have already left the island. Then scientists come to the island and try to persuade the remaining inhabitants to move to a neighbouring island. But the people of Takuu hesitate – they fear the loss of their independence and their cultural identity.
In an almost poetic way, this documentary film approaches the problem of climate change as manifested in the example of this sinking island. The film takes its time as it accompanies three families and their fears, doubts and uncertainties that are connected with the loss of their home. In the end it shows clearly how a global problem becomes an individual destiny.


On The Level Productions
Lyn Collie
Tel.: +64-27-2829593

Beautiful Islands Beautiful Islands Documentary film, Japan 2009, Kana Tomoko, 106 min.

Three islands, all very different, yet each threatened in its very existence by climate change: Tuvalu in the South Pacific, Venice in Italy and Shishmaref in Alaska. Three islands with their own specialities of nature, culture and their inhabitants. Different daily routines, rituals, festivities. And – different ways of dealing with the threat posed by the rising of the sea level. Italy’s technical possibilities are not available in Tuvalu and Shishmaref. Yet their inhabitants have developed rituals and traditions that strengthen the cohesion of the community.
The film was made over a period of three years and differs from many other films on climate change by refraining from over-dramatisation when showing the beauties of the landscape, the culture and the people – which, as they are now, will be lost, sooner or later. Slow images and an intensive soundscape create a portrayal of the richness of nature and culture that, against the background of climate change, merges into a sense of loss.


Eleven Arts
2932 Wilshire Blvd #204
Santa Monica
CA 90403
Tel.: +1-310-264-0818
Fax: +1-310-264-0868

My Super Sea Wall My Super Sea Wall Short film, Germany 2009, Gina Abatemarco, 12 min.

On the tiny Alaskan island of Kivalina, 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, dealing with climate change means more than making eco-friendly changes to a Western lifestyle: it’s a question of life or death. If rising tides and erosion don’t wash away Kivalina, then it’s only a matter of time before an Arctic storm will. Kivalina’s only defense are the man-made sea walls that crowd the island’s beaches, attempting to hold back the sea. For a community that has existed for thousands of years, not only their village is at stake, but their entire way of life as well.

Climate Spots by Michael Ballhaus: What Would You Miss? Climate Spots by Michael Ballhaus: What Would You Miss? Short films, Germany 2007/2008, students from the dffb

Within the context of his initiative “Ballhaus Project” the renowned cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, together with students from the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb), made four short environmental spots revolving around the question “What would you miss?”. In these spots three famous German directors (Fatih Akin, Wolfgang Petersen, Volker Schlöndorff), as well as Michael Ballhaus himself, reflect on what will be lost in a world afflicted by climate change.
The spots are very effective in striving to convey the threat posed by climate change as well as in their technical realisation, but their actual messages remain, to some extent, rather enigmatic.


Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb)
Potsdamer Str. 2
10785 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 25759 152
Fax +49 30 25759 162

Herança Herança Documentary film, Brazil 2007, Carolina Berger, 26 min.

In the deep south of Brazil, on the south-east border of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where agriculture and livestock breeding are the main branches of industry, a small community of farmers is trying to prevent the loss of its land. Due to climate change and degradation of the soil the desert is on the advance. Yet the chances of the impoverished rural population are minimal. Gradually the climate change is depriving them of their livelihood.
The film is an evocative and impressive portrayal of the effects of climate change in Brazil. The breathtaking beauty of the landscape and the vivid statements of the people afflicted speak for themselves, a commentary is not necessary. Climate change loses its abstractness and becomes a palpable element in the fate of the people.


Carolina Berger

Where is my Home? Where is my Home? Documentary film, India 2008, Krishnendu Bose, 6 min.

For 15 years the sea level in the Sunderbans in the east of India has been rising continually. In recent years, however, the pace has increased; oceanographers have calculated a rise of 3mm as compared to a global average of 2mm. Two of the delta’s islands have already been flooded. Scientists see a threat to the survival chances of some 100,000 people. The film tells the story of 13-year-old Anjona, who, together with her parents, is forced to leave her home on the island of Ghoramara as it has begun to sink. Her new home on a neighbouring island is also destroyed by water. Her future is uncertain.
The short documentary follows the fate of a so-called “climate refugee”. Without many explanations, the film concentrates on its moving report about the girl Anjona and her family and provides a palpable insight into the consequences of climate change for the individual.


New Delhi Television Pvt Ltd

No Impact Man No Impact Man Documentary film, USA 2008, Laura Gabbert/Justin Schein, 90 min.

Climate change prompts the New Yorker Beavan family to launch an unusual experiment: for a whole year they want to do without everything that causes harmful emissions even if this causes havoc in their life. They decide to live off the grid, i.e. without electricity. This means life without a refrigerator, air conditioning, a television etc., but gives them romantic evenings by candlelight. After long discussions they even ban the use of toilet paper. Colin Beavan, the initiator of the project, records his experiences in an online blog and very soon becomes the “No Impact Man”. Despite all difficulties and obstacles, the Beavans soon discover that going without many things is not only easier than expected, but also that life can thus gain a new quality.
The film is an emotional and intimate portrait of a family that implements a drastic change in their everyday life. It becomes clear that this decision has far-reaching consequences for their entire life. Without glorifying the protagonists, the film shows conflicts and problems, but also the new possibilities of a sustainable lifestyle.


Friendsfactory/2. Etage
Rödelheimer Bahnweg 31
60489 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49 69 40563910
Fax: +49 69 40563939

Urga Urga Feature film, Russia, 1991, Nikita Michalkow, 129 min.

The herdsman Gombo lives with his family in the Mongolian steppe, far away from civilisation. One day, near his tent, the vehicle of a Russian lorry driver, Sergei, has a breakdown. He is taken in hospitably by Gombo and his family. Soon a close friendship develops between the two men from diverse cultures. The two of them set off for the nearest town, where Gombo tries to buy condoms in the drug store since the Chinese government has decreed birth control. Sergei, however, gets drunk in the nearest pub. When, after several turbulent events, they finally return home, Gombo has with him a bicycle and a TV set – two items that are completely useless in the steppe.
In magnificent pictures the film portrays life in a simple but harsh landscape. Yet this world is changing rapidly. So-called “civilisation” is pervading even the most remote regions. And it brings with it a culture that provides many gaudy consumer goods, but not much sense. At the International Film Festival in Venice Nikita Michalkov was awarded the “Golden Lion” for this film.



Limmatauweg 9
5408 Ennetbaden
Tel.: +41 056 430 12 30
Fax: +41 056 430 12 31

The Day Bobby Ewing Died The Day Bobby Ewing Died Feature film, Germany 2005, Lars Jessen, 92 min. With Peter Lohmeyer, Richy Müller, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Franz Dinda, Nina Petri

1986 – the protest movement against the construction of the nuclear power plant in Brokdorf is in its final throes. The inhabitants of the “Rainbow Commune” have been taking an active part in this protest for years. When not involved in demonstrations, they live the usual life of a commune with consensus discussions, sheep shearing and communal bathing. One day they are joined by Hanne and her son Niels. In the aftermath of her divorce Hanne has decided to leave the city and seek a quieter life in the country. Yet while Hanne adapts to the commune’s unconventional way of life with surprising speed, Niels finds it increasingly difficult to accept communal life with its dogmatic rules. Instead he starts to bond with Rakete, the village rock’n’roller, and Martina, the daughter of the mayor. A major conflict finally erupts when a reactor explodes in faraway Chernobyl – on the very day when Bobby Ewing, the oil baron from “Dallas” and the commune’s favourite soap star, dies.
The film takes a warm-hearted and self-ironical look back at the environmental movement of the 1980s with its hopes and alternative concepts. By focussing without clichés on the protagonists, it breathes life into a piece of German history.


Transit Film GmbH
Dachauer Str. 35
80335 Munich
Tel.: +49 89 599885 11
Fax: +49 89 599885 20

The Sonnemann Family Familie Sonnemann Documentary film, Germany 2004, Dieter Zeppenfeld/Ulrike Bartels, 90 min.

Tucked away in the depths of the countryside, in the Rhineland region of Hunsrück, is the home of the Sonnemann family. They have chosen to live off the grid - without electricity, without gas, without mains water supply and without a vehicle. Their modest existence as self-supporters is based on their work as organic farmers and seed producers. This almost medieval idyll is disrupted by the planning of the motorway “B50 new”, which poses a threat to the family’s life and work. Together with others affected by the plan, Friedmund and Katrin Sonnemann start to organise resistance to the motorway, which is designed to cross the River Mosel and cut a swathe through the Hunsrück region – and thus through their land.
The film accompanies the Sonnemann family over a period of one year. In intensely observed pictures it describes the everyday life and political commitment of this family whose members lead such an unusual life by present-day standards. With great sensitivity the film makes it possible for the viewer to bond with the protagonists, who at first glance may seem rather cranky, and to understand their alternative way of life.


Krautmühlenweg 8
52066 Aachen
Tel.: +49 241 970180
Fax: +49 241 970182

Birdwatchers Birdwatchers Feature film, Brazil/Italy 2008, Marco Bechis, 108 min.


The film Birdwatchers begins with a bird’s eye perspective: the camera flies over a tropical rain forest, a dense jungle of rich green through which a broad river flows. At the end of the story a swathe of jungle is shown again, but this time the landscape abruptly becomes an immense area of cleared forest. All that catches the eye in the midst of this dreary brown and furrowed wasteland is a single tree – which seems like the last survivor of an extinct species.
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Pandora Film GmbH & Co. Verleih KG
Lamprechtstr. 11A
63739 Aschaffenburg
Tel.: +49 6021 150 660
Fax: +49 6021 150 66 19