Local filmmakers: Documentaries are a powerful tool for climate and environmental action

Quezon City—Documentary films can help shape the conversations and actions on the climate crisis, filmmakers said during the 26th episode of The Climate Reality Project’s Klimatotohanan webcast series.

Entitled “Going Beyond Hope and Despair: Pinoy Documentary Filmmakers Sparking Action for the Environment,” the special Klimatotohan episode featured local filmmakers participating in the Environmental Documentary Film Category of this year’s Montañosa Film Festival (MFF).

The MFF is an eight-day special event in Baguio City that showcases exceptional narrative fiction and documentary films by budding filmmakers of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Baha sa Tumana

Raymark Esteban Estael’s advocacy for environmental protection led him to create the documentary film “Baha sa Tumana” as his entry for MFF 2022.

The film is about the devastating impacts of flash floods in the community of Tumana, Marikina over the past 30 decades. Since 1988, people from Tumana had experienced flash floods that changed the way they lived.

“I saw the kids crying. When I saw them, I really had this heart na malaman kung paano binago ng baha yung mindset at buhay ng mga tao sa Tumana,” Estael said.

The film revealed how flash floods are not just a result of poor waste management but also of the interconnecting crises of climate change and environmental degradation.

Anya Kinnan Mu Tattay

Geralden Lusterio’s entry to the MFF 2022 entitled ‘Anya Kinnan Mu Tattay’—which means “anong kinain mo”—tackles the overconsumption of fast-food meals.

According to Lusterio, she wanted the film to convey the need to critically think about the interplay between food consumption and the environment.

“[The film] does not stop you from eating. It gives people the freedom to think and act,” Lusterio said, noting that igniting people’s emotions, not dictating, could spark change among viewers. “For people to change for the better, you have to break their beliefs, which in this case is reconsidering your food consumption,” she added.

Trash Talk

As locals, Charlene Favis and Baron Paulo Aquino witnessed the long-existing waste problem in Baguio City—the main plot of their film “Trash Talk.”

“Waste is the key subject of this film to reveal its effect on the environment,” Favis said. “It’s concerning and before it’s too late, gusto namin na mapag-usapan na siya,” she noted.

The film delved into how the waste problem is fueling the climate crisis. It presented the impacts of waste on biodiversity, public health, ecosystem, and other environmental aspects. It also put the spotlight onto garbage collectors, who are at the forefront of waste management in the country.

Carbon Eater

Shemen Padua said that her entry to MFF 2022, “Carbon Eater,” zeroes in on the passion, resilience, and patience of seaweed farmers and gatherers in Northern Luzon.

Saying that the humbling experience she had during the filmmaking with seaweed farmers is beyond words, Padua said, “Wala ako sa kalingkingan ng ginagawa nila. They [seaweed farmers] are our silent heroes yet they do not know it.”

Recent reports showed that seaweed farming could play a key role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, given its ability to sequester carbon at a phenomenal rate. However, despite the potential of this industry and its co-benefits, national and local governments have not given significant support to seaweed farmers.

Communicating the climate crisis through documentary films

“We are running out of time,” Padua said as she emphasized the need to shift the climate change discourse towards climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions.

“In our little way, in my little way as a documentarist, hinay-hinay tayong gumawa ng contributions to address climate change,” Estael said, in agreement with Padua that documentary films should be used to elicit climate actions and promote climate solutions.

Documentary films, according to Estael, have the potential to drive eye-opening stories that could empower the audience. However, Padua said that documentary filmmakers need more monetary support from the government and the private sector to produce more climate and environment-related films.