Today, with over 40 international festivals dedicated exclusively to films and video about the environment, and with many other fests creating categories for green documentaries, the ecoFilm has gained an unprecedented visibility and popularity among audiences and filmmakers alike.
Here’s a sampling of winners from nine recent environmental film festivals held across North America. Stunning in their diversity, the honored films focus cameras on subjects as varied as meat-eating in China, Chernobyl’s radioactive wolves and Mother Earth’s expanding population, while traveling to every continent — from the Indonesian rainforest to the Brazilian home of the world’s largest landfill; from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost tip of Patagonia.
Enjoy this glimpse at some of the best of these ecoFests – and after viewing the trailers and clips, support the dedicated filmmakers by purchasing tickets or downloads to the whole of their remarkable work.
Planet In Focus: Toronto International Environmental Film and Video Festival (Toronto, Ca.)
Best International Feature Film Award – THERE ONCE WAS AN ISLAND:
Te Henua e Nnoho
Shot over four years on the Takuu Atoll off the coast of Papua, New Guinea, the film examines the dynamic and heartfelt debate confounding tribes indigenous to the fast-eroding island chain. Directed by Briar March.
Best Canadian Feature Film Award – WAKING THE GREEN TIGER
Seen through the eyes of Chinese activists, farmers and journalists, this film follows an unprecedented campaign to stop a huge dam project on the Upper Yangtze river in the high mountains of southwestern China, and provides a look into the new environmental movement in China. Directed by Gary Marcuse.
Mark Haslam Award (named for the fest founder) – KEEPERS OF THE WATER
This short looks at the ongoing environmental controversy facing Canada’s oil industry through the eyes of Native youth living directly downstream from the Alberta Tar Sands in Fort Chipewyan. Directed by Ayelen Liberona.
Vermont International Film Festival (Burlington, Vt.)
Footage Farm USA Award – BLOOM: THE PLIGHT OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN
Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper narrates this film that exposes the frail health of the sixth largest lake in the U.S. and gives a glimpse of the future of the watershed communities of Vermont, New York and Quebec. Blue-green algae blooms are the most visible symptom of a lake in decline and the end point of a failing dairy industry, ill-planned development and aging water treatment systems. Directed by Victor Guadagno.
Ben & Jerry’s Award – MONGOLIA: MINING CHALLENGES A CIVILIZATION
Mongolia’s historic rural nomadic society has been challenged as its enormous mineral resources have come to the world’s attention. This film shows how exploration of the world’s largest reserves of copper, coal and other minerals is transforming Mongolia’s environment, society and culture. Directed by Ed Nef.
Imagine Science Festival (New York City)
The Scientist Award – CHASING BIRDS IN BERINGIA
Awarded for depicting a scientist in an accurate and original way, the film inhabits the world of bush-pilot biologists chasing wild birds north of the Arctic Circle. The tundra swans they study fly back and forth across the narrow stretch of water that separates Alaska and Russia. This east-west connection is what endangers the birds, and potentially the humans that interact with them. Directed by Stephani Gordon.
American Conservation Film Festival (Sheperdstown, W. Va.)
Audience Choice Award – THE POLAR EXPLORER
This beautifully-shot documentary explores the effects of climate change in our polar regions. Directed by Mark Terry.
Green Fire Award – WASTE LAND
A winner at multiple festivals, this fascinating film follows visual artist Vik Muniz on an emotional journey from Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill outside Rio de Janeiro, to the heights of international art stardom. The renowned artist enters into a creative collaboration with the catadores – pickers of recyclable materials – who live and work in the garbage. Ultimately, the transformation of trash into art also transforms Muniz and his collaborators. Directed by Lucy Walker.
ATLANTA DOCUFEST (Atlanta, Ga.)
Audience Choice Award – GROW!
We look at a new generation of sustainable farmers through the eyes, hearts and minds of 20 passionate, fiercely independent young growers. Directed by Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson
Best Social-Issue Documentary MOTHER: CARING FOR 7 BILLION
Recently the planet passed the 7 billion mark in human population, and this timely film has become a multiple winner at festivals with its encouraging call to consider the consequences of our increasing numbers. Directed by Christophe Fauchere.
Best Environmental Documentary YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip)
Three friends hit the road in this docu-comedy – searching for innovators and citizens solving humanity’s environmental challenges. Featuring Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson, Will Allen, Janine Benyus, Joel Salatin, David Orr, and others. Directed by Ben Evans and Mark Dixon.