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This year’s fest conversation topics include environmental racism and resistance, climate change and marine protection, and engaging activism through impactful media. Each conversation is filled with experts who will share their perspective and answer your questions to further explore the film themes.
Opening Night — The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel
Released in 2003, The Corporation, quickly became an iconic Canadian documentary, hailed worldwide for its incisive diagnosis of pathological corporate greed. Nearly 20 years later, directors Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott return with the follow-up they evidently wish they hadn’t felt compelled to make. In the decades since the original film’s release, big businesses had seemed to get the memo, pivoting away from naked profiteering and pledging a fresh commitment to social and ecological responsibility. In reality, as The New Corporation regretfully demonstrates, that shift was a shrewd but shallow rebrand; many businesses have simply become savvier at masking unsustainable and exploitative practices, realizing that ‘green’ products and a professed concern for social justice are great for the bottom line.
|Katherine Bruce||Planet in Focus Executive Director|
|Joel Bakan||Co-Director, The New Corporation|
|Jennifer Abbott||Co-Director, The New Corporation|
Environmental Racism & Resistance
To the ultra-wealthy, the Hamptons is a rustic playground offering rural charm and first-class amenities. For the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the community is ancestral land: a space of sacred sites, priceless artifacts, and precious natural resources. For decades, the Shinnecock have been marginalized as newcomers have refashioned the region into a space of profit and opulence with little regard for their history and culture. Disputes over land and the disruption of burial sites, including by the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, are a constant source of friction. Becky Hill-Genia, a Shinnecock Nation leader and activist, is a central figure in raising awareness around their grievances. As tensions mount ahead of the Club’s hosting of the U.S. Open, members of the Nation stage regular protests, hoping to bring their struggle to national attention.
|Treva Wurmfeld||Filmmaker, Conscience Point|
|Becky Hill-Genia||Shinnecock Nation leader|
Coral Reefs & Climate Change
In oceans around the planet, corals are in crisis. Beneath the warming waves, pollution and climate change have devastated once-vibrant ecosystems, destroying half the world’s coral in just the last 30 years. Only drastic reductions in carbon emissions can fully reverse this staggering trend. In the short term, however, an eccentric scientist has devised a solution that just might buy some time. His name is Dr. Tom Goreau, and he’s a marine biologist for whom reef protection runs in the family. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, an esteemed science photographer, and his parents, who were pioneers of reef research and conversation, Dr. Tom has made it his mission to seed reefs worldwide with Biorock—metal frames infused with electric currents that spur rapid coral growth.
|Andrew Nisker||Filmmaker, Coral Ghosts|
|Tom Goreau||Marine Biologist|
Media Impact & Activism
Thanks in part to the targeted reach offered by social media, documentary films are better positioned than ever before to become vehicles of social change. At the same time, social media often sorts users into polarized echo-chambers, where contrary views are scarce and acceptable opinions are algorithmically amplified. In such circumstances, how can documentarians transcend confirmation bias and the healthy skepticism of audiences that have become wary of manipulated media and bad-faith “alternative facts”? Like the film The Viewing Booth, this panel seeks to probe whether social issue filmmakers can feasibly aspire to persuade those with contrary beliefs, or whether their most impactful role is simply to spur the like-minded to action.
|Ra’anan Alexandrowicz||Filmmaker, The Viewing Booth|
|Eric Hynes||Curator of Film at Museum of the Moving Image|
|Brett Story||Filmmaker, The Hottest August|
International Eco-Hero: Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Marine Biologist
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice, and founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities. With Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, she co-edited the anthology All We Can Save, and co-founded The All We Can Save Project. Recently, Ayana co-created the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy. For three years, she taught a seminar on urban ocean conservation as an adjunct professor at New York University. She curates and hosts the Science & Society series at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. Her mission is to build community around climate solutions. Find her @ayanaeliza. Read More
Co-edited by Dr. Johnson, All We Can Save, is a collection of essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement and is currently available for sale at Type Books.
Canadian Eco-Hero: Aliya Jasmine Sovani, Environmental Journalist
Aliya Jasmine is an award-winning television host, producer, and environmental journalist (M.A.) You can currently watch her on various platforms for NBC News in Los Angeles. She is also the co-founder of the environmentally focused creative think tank, Lili Media & Design Lab. She was previously anchor of MTV News in Canada, for over a decade, where she interviewed celebs including Tom Cruise, Kanye West, and Adele. Among the many shows she helped develop at MTV Canada, MTV IMPACT was a show for millennials about social and environmental issues that sent her on assignment around the world, and set the path for her career: from South Sudan after a civil war, to the heart of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest to see first-hand the potential impacts of a proposed oil pipeline. Read more.
Join the YouTube Live Stream on Friday, October 16 at 6:30pm ET
Rob Stewart Youth Eco-Hero: Cheyenne Sundance, Founder of Sundance Harvest