Art, Environment and Activism: 5 Films to Change How You View the World

VideoCombining the art of cinema and activism.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the streets of Telluride, Colorado fill with travelers, athletes, artists, writers, humanitarians and activists, all coming together to spend four days being challenged and inspired, in the hopes that they will return to their own communities and do the same. This is Mountainfilm and with over 70 films at the festival, there are many that are worthy of accolades.

These five stand out as ones that have the potential to change how you view the world. Drawing on themes of art, environment and activism, they all highlight important issues and causes that shape our modern society, and force us to question what we are doing about them.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry

Does art have the power to change the world? Contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is proof that creativity has the power to push global boundaries. A dissident in his homeland, he is revered around the world for his work that makes a political statement. Ai Weiwei Never Sorry is a detailed exploration of the world of Ai Weiwei and his work that blurs the boundaries of art and politics.

Chasing Ice

In 2007, National Geographic photographer James Balog founded Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography project that gives a voice to climate change by documenting glaciers around the world. Chasing Ice documents this project and the work that goes into it. It is the story of one man’s crusade to gather undeniable evidence that climate change is a reality. The time-lapse footage of quickly receding glaciers is haunting, but a clear visual reminder of the destructive path that we have put our planet on and will continue to spin out of control unless we start to make real change in climate policy.

The Lost Bird Project

When an animal goes extinct, how do we ensure that it stays a part of the collective consciousness? Compelled by the tragedy of modern extinction, sculptor Todd McGrain embarks on a project to memorialize extinct birds and place them in public locations related to the bird’s decline. To date, bronze memorials have been dedicated to the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet, the Labrador Duck, the Great Auk, and the Heath Hen.

Living Downstream

The personal journey of ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, PhD. originally told in her book Living Downstream  and now turned into a documentary film, is one that immediately strikes a chord. All of us have seen the ugly face of cancer, whether we have dealt with it ourselves or it has touched members of our family and friend circles. Unfortunately, the discussion around the causes of cancer are not always on the public agenda, especially when it comes to questions of environmental pollution and toxicology. Steingraber works hard to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links, traveling across North America and bringing attention to the urgent human rights issue of cancer prevention and reminding us of the connection between a healthy environment and human health.

Bidder 70

In 2008 when Tim DeChristopher, with no intention to pay, bid a total of $1.8 million at a Bureau of Land Management Oil and Gas Lease Auction to save 22,000 acres of Utah wilderness surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Park he knew he would face consequences. Despite the fact that Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, later invalidated the entire BLM Auction, DeChristopher was indicted on two federal felonies. While he awaited his trial, he became a symbol for the climate justice movement, rallying individuals around the country to stand up and speak out against climate change. This film is a reminder of the political structure that we live in, often bound by economic interests, and where necessary action often comes with severe consequences.

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.