Canadian films have a lot to say about climate change

Climate change, endangered species and Canadian wildlife — these films have it all

By Devon Harvey

On April 22nd, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide. The purpose of this day should be to reflect on how our way of life impacts the planet. What better way to do it than spending the day watching Canadian productions about issues facing the planet and the natural world?

The following films are all either linked to Canada’s wildlife and ecosystem, or directed or produced by Canadians. Each of these films has something to say about nature and what’s happening to the planet, urging people to listen.

2012

This film focuses heavily on climate change and takes place primarily in the natural lands of British Columbia. Directed by Roland Emmerich, 2012 brings attention to how the earth is being altered as a cause of climate change and what could theoretically occur to the planet if negative climate change continues.

In 2018, the BBC News reported that if countries do not act on climate change, temperatures may rise by 4.5 C by the year 2100. A temperature rise of more than 1.5 C could be detrimental to the planet according to researchers. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to take this issue seriously.

2012 is a film meant to scare us into action. Canadians even more so as it is filmed primarily in our home country and shows exactly what could happen to Canada’s land.

Sharkwater

Directed and produced by Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, this film focuses on sharks and bringing attention to their nonviolent nature. The documentary details how due to hunting, shark finning and illegal killing for their meat, 90 per cent of the shark population has been killed.

According to Oceana EU, sharks play an important role in ecosystems by maintaining the population of species they feed on and indicating the health of the ocean itself. If sharks were removed from the ecosystem larger predatory fish would grow in numbers and eat all of the herbivore fish. This would make the ecosystem dominated by algae and alter the ability of the reef to survive.

By showing the nonviolent nature of these animals, Stewart brings attention to the dying population of sharks and how detrimental their extinction would be to the ecosystem. Stopping the hunting and poaching of sharks is important in the maintaining of the earth’s natural spaces.

Wild Canada

Produced and directed by Jeff and Sue Turner, Wild Canada is a CBC mini series focusing on profiling Canada’s natural environment. Using high-definition videos, the film brings attention to the state that Canadian wildlife is in.

In terms of Canadian natural spaces, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest threats to national parks. This means that species within the parks may not survive in the long run unless various conservation measures are taken.

When talking about climate change and the alteration of nature it may be difficult to associate those changes directly with one’s homeland. This mini series offers insight into the natural world of Canada and the struggles surrounding it.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch

This film was directed by an all Canadian team: Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. Baichwal and de Pencier also produced the film.

The film showcases the effects that humans have on the natural world. This includes: seawalls in China, the largest terrestrial machines from Germany, the devastation of Great Barrier Reef in Australia and much more.

National Geographic reported a 2016 study that found that three-quarters of the earth’s surface is under pressure from humans and their activity. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch offers insight into the effects that human activity has on the planet and visually documents what is happening to the Earth’s natural spaces.

This film is set to inform the global population into conservation action.

North of Superior

Directed and produced by Canadian filmmaker Graeme Ferguson, this film focuses on the northern lands of Ontario. The film follows the changes of the seasons in Canada and a devastating forest fire.

According to Natural Resources Canada over 8000 fires occur every year and they burn an average of 2.1 million hectares. Even though wildfires play a role in shaping ecosystems they are still deadly and can be harmful to the natural world, animals and humans alike.

An article from National Geographic recognizes that natural occurring wildfires are integral to ecosystems. They return nutrients to the land, act as a disinfectant and allow sunlight to reach forest floors. However, man made fires do not work in the same fashion.

North of Superior illustrates that the beauty of Canada exists all year round and informs the public that natural wildfires can be beneficial to ecosystems, it is the man made fires that are harmful.

Keep these Canadian films, documentaries and the issues they tackle in mind and on your watch list as Earth Day approaches.

The Oscars 2019: Canadians dominate the best short film category

By Devon Harvey

The Academy Awards are back on Feb. 24 and this year Canadians are dominating the short film categories. Bao, Weekends, and Animal Behaviour are some of the short films that are contesting to take home the gold.

Usually a majority of the awards are filled with American nominees, but this year Canadians are taking over. Filmmakers Domee Shi, Trevor Jimenez and David Fine are being praised in the film industry for having their work up for notable awards.

Canadians are nominated in the live action short film category and animated short film category.

For best live action short film

Jeremy Comte is nominated for Fauve, a short film set in a mine that details how two young boys go from playing seemingly innocent power games and having fun to being pitted against their surroundings with Mother Nature as their only witness.

Marianne Farley is nominated for Marguerite. This film tells the story of Marguerite (Béatrice Picard), an elderly woman who develops an unusual friendship with her caretaker Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). Through this friendship, Marguerite is able to confront her longing that she had hidden away and was able to make peace with her past.

In the animated category for best short film

David Fine and Alison Snowden are nominated for Animal Behaviour, this short film follows a group of animals through a group therapy session as they all attempt to come to terms and deal with the negative behaviours that come to them naturally.

A scene from  Animal Behaviour,  directed by   Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine.

A scene from Animal Behaviour, directed by Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine.

Domee Shi is nominated for Bao, a story about a Chinese mother who is experiencing empty nest syndrome because her son left home. She is given a second chance when one of her handmade dumplings comes to life. The story follows the mother through raising the dumpling as she did with her son. This film shows a mother’s love for her child through all stages of their lives.

In an interview with journalist Tracy Brown from the Los Angeles Times, Domee Shi spoke at great length about her short film Bao:

“My inspiration mainly came from my own life. Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom. I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they’ve always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close. And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds,” said Shi.

When Brown asked Shi about the choice not to include dialogue in the animated short Shi said, “by taking dialogue out you’re really pushing and challenging yourself to tell the story with all the acting and emotion and actions of the characters...so your story could be understood by people of all ages and all backgrounds and all cultures.”

A scene from the short film  Bao,  directed by Domee Shi.

A scene from the short film Bao, directed by Domee Shi.

When Pixar picked up the Asian-Canadian short Shi explained that despite Bao was such a culturally specific film, overprotective parents learning how  to let go of their children and food bringing families together are universal themes with which people all over the world could identify.

Trevor Jimenez is nominated for Weekends, an animated short film that follows a young boy as he moves between his recently divorced parents’ homes. It couples dreamlike moments with the reality of a broken up family and home. The details of the reality of divorce and moving between parents’ houses and lives are portrayed through the eyes of a child.

I met and interviewed Trevor 12 days before the Oscars over Skype, he explained to me that the day he found out his film Weekends was nominated, his wife and him woke up really early, “The day of, was insane... it was our anniversary that day too...I almost felt like shock, like I couldn’t believe it”.   

When he finished the film just over a year ago Jimenez said, “I had friends who told me ‘Oh this is going to get nominated,’ and I never believed them...To have it do what it’s doing now is crazy.”

Jimenez said that every time he watches the film it’s different. “[it] depends on the crowd and how people react and the questions that come after. It’s always sort of shifting...I think the whole experience has shifted how I view it...For it to be validated in this way is a huge confine boost...It almost feels like a weird science experiment. It’s like oh the experiment kinda worked, like that’s how it feels. People connect with it and that’s kind of special,” Jimenez said about his short film.

When I asked him how being Canadian has affected his experience as a nominee Jimenez said, “I’m really happy that there are other Canadians, I’m very proud to be Canadian. Everyone is just really happy to be there whether or not you share that kind of nationality or not,” adding that all of the nominees are rooting for each other.

The 91st Oscars air live across the country Feb. 24th at 8 p.m. E.T.

All images were sourced from Animal Behaviour short film and Bao trailer.