During the month of July Filmatique presents Ecologies, a series of films attentive to issues of climate, nature and sustainable living, alternative modes of perception, and animal life.
In their directorial debut Trouble the Water, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine producers Carl Deal and Tia Lessen illuminate the racial politics of environmental crisis vis-à-vis a young couple's battle to survive Hurricane Katrina's decimation of their family and community, as the waters rise. Jayro Bustamante's stunning first feature Ixcanul navigates the precariousness of female indigeneity, immersing the spectator in the rhythms of a vanishing world amidst ever-present threats of geological rupture and encroaching modernity. Markus Imhoof's More than Honey traces colony collapse disorder in global bee populations from Switzerland to Australia, while Kirsten Tan's debut Pop Aye posits an unlikely friendship as a man and an elephant journey to Thailand's Isan province.
Blending narrative and documentary forms and featuring the works of three first-time directors, Filmatique's Ecologies Series spotlights vivid and compelling visions of the current age of the Anthropocene, highlighting the destructive potential of human life on earth and its entanglement with other forms of sentience and existence—while attesting to the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities.
Trouble the Water, Carl Deal & Tia Lessen / USA, 2008
Kimberly Rivers Roberts is a 24-year-old aspiring rapper living with her husband Scott in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. Kim has recently acquired a $20 consumer-grade camcorder; days prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina she wanders her neighborhood interviewing locals, asking them if they're scared, why they haven't evacuated. "It's going to be a day to remember," she remarks. As the storm makes landfall and the levee breaks, flooding the city in contaminated water, Kim continues filming—chronicling dramatic rescues and harrowing returns to the city's devastated outer-districts.
Comprised of Kim's own footage alongside contemporary news reels and official government statements regarding Hurricane Katrina, Trouble the Water elucidates the potential of ecological crisis to further entrench America's hierarchies of race and power. Carl Deal and Tia Lessen's joint-directorial debut premiered at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize; Silverdocs, where it won an Honorable Mention; and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, where it won both the Jury Award and the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights. Trouble the Water was also nominated for Emmys in Outstanding Informational Programming - Long Form and Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Research, as well as the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Ixcanul, Jayro Bustamante / Guatemala-France, 2015
María, a 17-year-old Mayan girl, lives in the Guatemalan highlands. Each day she works alongside her parents on coffee plantations belonging to a local man, to whom she has been recently been betrothed in marriage. At night, however, María sneaks out to rendezvous with another boy her age who will soon depart on the perilous journey to the US border. Desperate to be taken along, María sleeps with and is soon abandoned by Pepe, left to deal with threats to both her pregnancy and her vanishing way of life at the base of the rumbling volcano.
Rooted in the quotidian rituals of Central America's indigenous communities, Ixcanul captures ecological cadences and ancient traditions in mesmerizing visual and sonic detail. Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante's debut feature premiered at Berlin, where it won the Alfred Bauer Award; Biarritz, where it won Best Film; Cartagena, where it won Best Film; FEST, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Debut; Guadalajara, where it won Best Film and Best Director; Lima, where it won Best Actress; Molodist, where it won Best Feature Film and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury; and Philadelphia, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. Ixcanul is the only film to be made in the Kaqchikel Mayan language and Guatemala's first-ever submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
More Than Honey, Markus Imhoof / Germany, 2012
Populations of bees are vanishing at a rapid pace across the globe— the phenomenon has been labeled colony collapse disorder, wherein the delicate ecosystems of apiary life are unraveling. Responsible for the vast majority of plant pollination, bees are indispensable to the global food supply chain and, thus, human life. Echoing Albert Einstein, a voice-over warns that if the former were to die out, the latter would last hardly four years.
Documenting the scope of this disappearance from California almond orchards to the hand-pollination techniques utilized to fertilize fruit trees in northern China, More Than Honey weaves a complex and fascinating tale of species survival. Markus Imhoof's second documentary film premiered at Locarno, CPH:DOX, and Santa Barbara, where it won Best Documentary Film. More Than Honey also won the Swiss Film Prize for Best Documentary and Best Documentary at the German Film Awards.
Pop Aye, Kirsten Tan / Thailand-Singapore, 2016
Thana is a middle-aged architect living in Bangkok. While professionally successful, he is unhappy with his life. After encountering an elephant one night while wandering the city, Thana decides to embark toward Isan, his childhood home in Thailand's idyllic north. He brings Pop Aye, the elephant, with him on a journey that intersects with various characters and culminates in a form of companionship both deep and unexpected.
Shot largely with non-professional actors and gesturing toward realms of perception beyond the human, Pop Aye portrays in endearing detail the bond between a man and an elephant. Singaporean filmmaker Kirsten Tan's first feature premiered at Sundance, where it won the Screenwriting Award for World Cinema - Dramatic; Rotterdam, where it won the Big Screen Award; Nettia Off Camera, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize; and Zurich, where it won Best International Feature Film.