Documentary Film & Community Conversations: Powerful Tools for Promoting & Supporting Change

Documentary Film & Community Conversations: Powerful Tools for Promoting & Supporting Change

Change is loss; change is the gaining of something new.”

Last night I attended the screening of a documentary film “Metamorphosis” by Canadian film makers Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper[1]. It was an informative, energizing and beautiful experience. The topic was Climate Change. Many films on this theme are all “gloom and doom”. In contrast, this film reminded me of the resilience and beauty of nature and of the importance of slowing down. It gave me hope and inspiration that we do have a “window of time” to make a real difference in the health of our planet.

We had an opportunity to meet and hear briefly from the film makers about their purpose in making the film before it was shown.

The Documentary: Real Life Experiences

Through the use of dramatic cinematography a number of real life examples of the impacts of climate change were shared through the eyes of people who are/were directly affected. This included:

  • The drought in Southern California characterized by swaths of cracked and desolate land, which due to the diversion of natural aquifers for the irrigation of large cities such as Los Angeles, has changed green, thriving and water abundant areas, to desert. Data was shared including the fact that a typical lawn in Southern California requires 4 feet of water per year to stay healthy and alive and rainfall typically is 13 inches per year. The rest is made up for by irrigation.
  • More frequent and powerful typhoons in the Philippines and Caribbean resulting in loss of life, the high loss of homes (needing to be rebuilt) and the uprooting of ancient trees.
  • Higher water levels and more frequent flooding in Venice
  • Devastating fires due to draught. The experience of driving through a burning forest to reach loved ones. One family’s experience of losing their home and how their entire town was decimated.

The Documentary: Innovative Solutions

A number of innovative solutions were shared that are currently being implemented in various parts of the world. They included:

  • Garden Pools – and the “army” of folks trained to convert drained swimming pools into gardens and ecosystems which are similar to what exists in nature; symbiotic relationships where one organism is dependent on another; e.g. ducks, fish (fertilizer), water from rain and dew, facilitating the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables.[2]
  • Grid “Collective” – installing solar panels on roofs of homes in low income communities and training others to do this
  • Sculptured Human Art – facilitating the growth of new coral reefs
  • Garbage Art – to increase awareness of how much garbage we create as humans and using it to construct colorful and fun art pieces
  • Earthships – using used tires, cans, bottles, solar panels as well as rain water capture to create self-sustaining homes that are “off the grid” [3]

Community Conversation: Who was there and Why was it helpful?

After the screening, the film makers were joined at the front of the room by an academic, and a local municipal councillor who is advocating for “green” solutions, as well as a facilitator. The “floor” was open for us all to share how the film impacted us, to ask questions and share impressions.

It was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the panelists and the audience. A safe environment was created that enabled people to share what they liked about the film, what they might have liked more of, and how it impacted them. There was also a discussion of change and loss and how it is important to grieve the losses associated with climate change, as well as other environmental and life changes.

As the documentary touched on the importance of us as members of communities sharing our gifts and talents to create innovative solutions, a couple of special things happened that surprised me. One woman asked for permission and sang a beautiful song about Mother Earth. Another openly shared her painful, yet valuable learning experience of moving through grief related to what we as humans have done to the planet, and how the experience affected her mind and body; and the realization that this is part of the process of change. 

Lessons about change that I took away from the film

  • The importance of slowing down and being grateful for the beautiful world we have.
  • Reminded me that many of us are stuck in “psychic numbness”; on a constant treadmill of making money, so we can pay our bills, buy bigger and bigger homes and cars and consume more and more “stuff”. Being on this “hamster wheel” prevents us from reflecting on our beliefs and behaviors, experiencing and moving through the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of change, letting go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and moving toward creative solutions.
  • The strength and resilience of the monarch butterfly; how going through different phases from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to beautiful butterfly and the 3000 or so miles each one flies each year, is remarkable. The butterfly reminds us that change is normal and can lead to increased strength, resilience and beauty.
  • The human imagination and how creative we can be to come up with solutions when we put our hearts and minds together toward a common purpose.
  • The importance of acknowledging that we all have gifts and talents to share; uncovering and sharing those gifts to make a positive difference.
  • The need to forgive ourselves and others for the harm we have done to our planet.
  • The value of holding community conversations around topics and engaging people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences to generate innovative solutions to “pressing” challenges.
  • The power of the collective and community to support change.

 Parting Thoughts

Reflecting on last night’s experience and what I learned from the documentary, I began thinking about the importance of grieving all changes. I started thinking about how we might integrate video and film effectively into organizational change processes and to support social movements and societal changes we need in order to create a healthier world for us all. What are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear from you. Have you used film and video to support change processes you’ve been a part of? If so, where and how and what did you learn? I invite you to share your comments below.


[1] View trailer here: https://vimeo.com/248189180

  • [2] Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.” (Source: https://study.com/academy/lesson/symbiotic-relationship-definition-examples-quiz.html)

[3] Wikipedia description: “An Earthship is a brand of passive solar earth shelter that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.

An Earthship addresses six principles or human needs:[1]

  1. Thermo-solar heating and cooling
  2. solar and wind electricity
  3. self-contained sewage treatment
  4. building with natural and recycled materials
  5. water harvesting and long term storage
  6. some internal food production capability.”