Green theme at the 15th Zürich Film Festival

The 15th Zürich Film Festival was not only green because of its carpet. The green theme kicked off with the film Bruno Manser – Voice of the Rainforest, followed by another gala premiere Watson (the founder of Sea Shepherd), Sea of Shadows, and Sanctuary with Javier Bardem, all of which highlighted the need for nature conservation.

The Manser film rightfully received the science film award. It is a comprehensive and timely film about the conservation of forests, biodiversity and the importance of respect for human rights. In 1984, Bruno Manser travelled to the Bornean jungle where he bonded with the Penan people and became environmental activists to help preserve their habitat. As a feature film, it showed how much an individual from a completely different cultural circle can find his way amongst other humans he has never known, and finally helps them to the point that it costs him his own life.

Sanctuary with Javier Bardem is a very impressive film about Antarctica and its natural inhabitants, but also came across strongly as advertising for Greenpeace.

Not just demonstrating – providing solutions

Watson, on the other hand, was extremely moving. The footage of the film alternates between the beauty of nature and the cruelty of whaling, and clearly shows how fishing today affects our environment and our seas. Watson also shows how important it is not only to stand up and act against the destruction of the environment, but also to offer help and solutions directly. He emphasises the importance of seeing the environment, and in this case the oceans and their inhabitants, in a holistic context. Ultimately, an increase in whales and krill populations will have a positive impact on our climate.

Another film portraying both beautiful landscapes and brutal footage was Cody – The Dog Days Are Over. The film is about a Romanian street dog who was adopted in Switzerland, and whose owner is curious about where the dog came from and what his past was like. In a very impressive and profound conversation, the question arises if it would have been better had he stayed in Romania, free to live his life in the open.

Importance of animals

The film is, along with Watson, an absolute must-see. Both illustrate (you can almost physically feel it) the love and commitment of the two protagonists to the animals. In Cody we do not only see the deep love of his master for his dog, that he would do everything for him, and that Cody is a real family member. We also see that animals can love and know exactly where they belong, and when faced with the decision, they stay with their family without hesitation.

Watson shows us not only the beauty and importance of whales for our environment and climate, it also shows us the very deep bond that Watson himself has developed with these wonderful animals. Animals basically need the same rights as humans; their habitat must be protected and they must grow up in a species-appropriate environment, which in turn will benefit us humans.

Systematic thinking

Interesting were also the ZFF talks, though we would have liked to have had more systemically thinking scientists as contact persons on the topic of deforestation. The topic was treated very superficially and not viewed beyond the box. The importance of continuous forests was mentioned, but little consideration was given to the fact that fragmented forests (as a result of fires, for example) isolates thousands of animals and plants, some of which face extinction. Reforestation may help the climate, but won’t bring back extinct species.

The topic of meat and deforestation of the rainforest was seen a bit too narrowly by the scientists. We would like to suggest to look at where the cause really lies: the politicians elected by us in the first place. Only if we the people comprehensively and holistically educate ourselves can we make more sustainable choices, even when casting our vote. We need to see the lifecycle system, consider all different points and not only climate neutrality. Only then can we make a real difference.

Back to the green carpet and the question of how much it really made a statement. How many of the sponsor cars were green, was CO2 compensation purchased, and why was there a Formula 1 racing car feature? The green carpet in frnt of the cinama was a new one every day. it was also coated with a platic film that was taken away before each use.

The choice if the films and not only the green once, were excellent. but It would be encouraging to see a deeper level of environmental commitment at the next festival.

Image credit: ZFF

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