Ekotopfilm: We Are Running Short Of Actors

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Over five days, in the second half of October, with 81 films from 23 countries and 8 continents – the world’s oldest and most prominent environmental film festival took place, at last, in Prague. In this article you will find the newest and deepest environmental films from directors from Norway, the UK and Slovakia.

For the first time, the Czech public was able to see fascinating documentary films made in the past year-and-a-half about the real state of our planet, its problems, and the dangers it is facing at the moment. Nobody was bored, not even during the breaks, as there was an enriching educational program between the film sessions, aimed especially at the youngest visitors. Discussions with the film creators were included as well.

Despite the fact that the discussion of environmental issues did not deviate from the leading media and panel discussions customary at international conferences, all these efforts, according to the experts, seem still to be insufficient. Environmentalists believe that in order to ensure that mankind will be facing an acceptably bright future, it is necessary not only to solve existing problems, but also to prevent the emergence of new ones, and to do this by teaching respect for nature to the younger generation. So, part of the Ekotopfilm festival program was an interactive exhibition dedicated to classifying and processing household and industrial waste, as well as educational workshops and master classes.

Films were presented to compete in seven sections: Nature and Natural Science, Science and Technology, Technology Success Stories, Human Activity Success Stories, Current Affairs, Children and Youth, and Short Films. Each of them was focused on particular problematic aspects of environmental realities in different parts of the world. The top subjects discussed were climate change, species diversity, soil degradation, deforestation, and water pollution. Let’s have a brief look at three of them which are definitely worth seeing.

Climatic Error (2016, director Štefan Val’o, Slovakia)

We have been used to thinking that global climate change is caused mainly by the growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the latest NASA study proved recently that CO2 & Co are not the only troublemakers.

Active human impact on the Earth’s soil cover is a significant contributor to the emergence of environmental problems (including the creation of artificial slopes along highways, soil compaction under the influence of heavy machinery, improper cultivation, and so on), which lead to the destruction of natural soil structures, reduce the soil’s porosity and ability to absorb, accumulate and subsequently to allow water to evaporate naturally. Water vapor, ideally, creates a necessary «cushion», reflecting excess solar radiation. The latter is the reason for the rising global average temperature index and so-called global warming.

Water, not being able to hold fast in the soil, drains to nearby ponds and streams. The consequences include the drying up of vast areas, rising sea levels, wildfires, and melting glaciers. In a word, the root of all problems is under our feet.

But how to moisturize the thirsty ground? We can‘t declare a boycott on the construction of new highways, trying to go against the progress of the new century. One of the solutions that researchers in the film offer is a mild loosening of the soil to a depth of two meters in forest areas: this method helps to increase the absorption of moisture in the upper soil strata and thus to establish the process of water-exchange processes with the atmosphere.

Skeleton Sea (2016, director Mauritz Brekke Solberg, Norway)

The story is about João and Xandi, two Portuguese surfers who, now in their early 50s, still have the energy and optimism to try to change our world – mainly their beloved coast – for the better.

To some extent sacrificing personal well-being and family happiness, they have created an educational museum on the coast, all exhibits of which are made from rubbish picked up on the beach or in coastal waters. Despite a dearth of outside financing, they try to involve children and young people in the project.  

«Many children are growing up completely denaturalized today», – worries João. The other thing he and his colleague are anxious about is the current condition of the ocean. As long as they spend most of their free time conquering waves on surf boards, they can‘t stand aside while watching it being polluted. «We have a special feeling about what is going on in our ocean», – says João and then adds: «I don‘t think we are destroying the planet, we are just destroying our habitat».

Actually, you do not need much in the way of resources to do something really useful: just go to the beach, pick up the trash, and then make some creative stuff. Artwork is a platform to talk about more serious problems with a wider audience. «We are doing a good job, we change things» – the surfers are persuaded. Unfortunately, money is required anyway. The last grant the guys luckily got allowed about 1 000 children to learn a bit more about ocean life and to understand the necessity of taking care of it. However they admit that their work is mostly unprofitable. «You are losing money, you ruin youself. Living as an artist is not easy. Economically it is difficult everywhere in Portugal». The one and only reward is children’s smiles and happy faces. To some extent, that’s enough. «If we didn’t surf a lot, we would obviously have given up already. But we do not want to be rich. We want to be happy. Just happy and healthy».

Expedition Shark (2016, director Sally Snow, United Kingdom)

Modern society has been raised on horror movies about sharks that are not helpful in protecting these animals as an endangered species. Another point of view about sharks and their natural habitat was expressed by Sylvia Earle, an American marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer: «You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks». This 34-minute movie is about last year’s scientific expedition in the Philippines, where sharks are protected from poachers by armed rangers. The question is whether it is possible to repopulate South East Asia’s rapidly declining predator population just by defending this secret habitat. With a minimal tools set, including satellite tags and remote cameras, the team tracks white sharks along the defined basin. It’s not as simple as it seems to be for amateurs: in order to mark the animal unit you have to be in the right place at the right time. Since «the best way to observe a fish is to become a fish», the viewers have to be prepared for breath-taking pictures of underwater life. «Sharks are not only necessary for maintaining the health of coral reefs, but also the entire ocean», – say scientists. At present, sharks’ lives are threatened not only by hunters, but also sound or acoustic pollution.

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