'Racing Extinction' at MIFF
As the film's title suggests, the story is about the present-day escalation of mankind's destruction of fellow species. But it's also about hope in dark times and how more and more people are finding brilliant ways to resist this apparently inexorable trend.
In 'Racing Extinction', a group of film makers, activists and artists, led by Louis Psihoyos, veteran National Geographic photographer and creator of the Oscar award-winning 'The Cove', have created a master-piece. And I love MIFF because last night's Q & A featured a jet-lagged (but still ridiculously handsome) Psihoyos, primed to share with us just how they did it.
The film manages to combine glorious wild-life photography, a thrilling and dangerous expose of the illegal endangered species trade (which is second only to the drug trade in its lucrativeness) with a powerful message about people power. There are instances galore of determined people making a huge difference. For example one film maker, who opened his documentary on the nefarious shark fin trade with the image of a beautiful finned shark spinning slowly to its death at the bottom of the ocean, is predominantly responsible for the reduction of the trade in shark fins by a massive 75%. Every one of us, contend the film-makers, by changing our own lives can make a difference, even in what might seem like small ways. As they put it: 'Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness'.
In a miraculous piece of synchronicity with the film's theme and launch, this week the activist organisation the Sum of Us, by presenting a petition with 250,000 signatories to the American airline, Delta, has managed to extract an assurance that the airline will no longer transport trophy animals. And just this morning American Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have come on board too. If the big game hunters are thwarted from hanging their trophy heads, like that of Cecil the lion, on their living room walls hopefully the 'sport' will soon lose its allure.
I need no convincing these days that people acting together can make a difference. This became abundantly clear during our successful fight against the East-West Link, where protecting the environment, wild life and zoo animals was a major motivator:
One fantastic action undertaken by the film-makers in collaboration with the Oceanic Preservation Society (headed by Psihoyos) took place just last week-end. Parts of downtown New York came to a standstill as its famous buildings, including the Empire State Building, morphed into immense screens on which the film-makers projected images of threatened animals and other scenes from the film. Incredibly, footage of awe-struck New Yorkers and wild life adorning the sides of buildings has already been integrated into the finished film. No wonder Psihoyos was tired.
This organic, spontaneous attitude to film-making is a feature of the director's work. When the team decided they needed to find a 'get-away' driver prepared to drive the custom-made 'projector' car through the streets of Manhattan they managed to find a female racing car driver, who amazingly is anti-fossil fuels. And that is how, according to Psihoyos, things unfold. He is reluctant to go so far as to say that the angels are on his side, but he does feel that if your cause is just, things do work out.
|As you can see, in Melbourne recently angels are definitely on the side of the opponents of Hazelwood power station|
The film will be progressively released around the world in advance of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris in November, the aim being for all conference participants to know of it or better still, to have seen it before they arrive at the table.
What could possibly follow this film? was a question asked last night. The answer surprised me. Because not transport, as I had expected, but food production is the highest global producer of carbon dioxide, Psihoyos believes that we all need to change our diets. We need to become either vegan or vegetarian or at least use meat and dairy products much more sparingly. So in his next film he will be demonstrating how 'real men' can be vegan. No doubt just like 'Racing Extinction, this one too will be a 'must-see'.