Essential Green Films by Women and Non-Binary Filmmakers: Lilith picks

The phrase ‘environmental film-maker’ often conjures up images of David Attenborough, Leonardo DiCaprio and more western, white men and a traditional documentary format. And yet, the world of nature film-making is far more expansive and exciting, with practitioners across genres and cultures providing refreshing, gripping and thoughtful meditations on the natural world. Lilith is dedicated to platforming the brilliant diversity of global women and non-binary nature film-makers, aiming to promote films which expand how we think about nature. We asked them for their current favourites.

Pumzi (2009) Wanuri Kahiu [Sci-fi]

Known as Kenya’s first science fiction film, Pumzi explores a post-water war dystopia in East Africa. With populations locked in contained communities, protected from the ‘dead world’ outside, a young curator of a digital ‘natural history’ museum has her life changed when she is sent coordinates of soil with the ability to grow plants. A really great short which prompts pertinent questions on resource scarcity narratives through an Afrofurist lens.

Amazona (2016) Clare Weiskopf [Documentary]

A daughter’s exploration into the effervescent and extraordinary life of her mother, Valerie Meikle, who rejected the traditions and restraints of motherhood to live self-sufficiently in the Colombian jungle. Following the tragic death of her eldest daughter, Valerie leaves her remaining children to canoe with her lover to the Amazonian basin. Heralded by some as selfish and others as remarkable, the documentary is a daughter’s mediation on motherhood, nature, and maternal instincts.

Fast Color (2018) Julie Hart [Magical Realism]

Eight years since the last drop of rain, director Julia Hart’s Fast Color is a dystopian superhero film which hurls the audience headfirst into an apocalyptic drought. The nature of the protagonist’s, Ruth, super 'abilities' and the world she finds herself needing to 'save' provides a poignant social commentary on the use of natural resources in modern society. Like any superhero movie, Ruth has a unique history which unfolds through a series of flashbacks but defying tradition the plot is drip-fed and relies on in-depth storytelling above action.

Daughters of the Dust (1991) Julie Dash [Drama]

Julie Dash is a champion for rejecting the male gaze and subverting assumptions about the experiences of black women. She centers these ideas throughout her work and uses the female gaze to contend with sexuality, desire, cultural extinction, indigeneity, spirituality, and globalization. This poetic visual masterpiece is set on an Island off of South Carolina through a dual narrative of matriarch nana Peazant, and her unborn granddaughter, as their family prepares to leave for the mainland, weaving together a colonial history through the traditional oral methods of the Gullah people. Daughters of the Dust was notably the first feature film directed by an African-American woman distributed widely across cinemas in the United States.

Blue Vinyl (2001) Judith Helfand [Documentary]

When activist filmmaker Judith Helfand’s parents affix vinyl siding to their suburban Long Island abode, she becomes curious about the effects of these plastics on her neighbourhood and decides to investigate. What transpires is a deep investigation into a supply chain, linking unlikely stories across continents, race, class and gender to expose the impact of vinyl manufacturing and disposal on people and the planet. The film builds on the project of environmental justice campaigners to continue exposing the injustices in our supply chains, especially on women’s health.

The Peace of Wild Things (2020) Katy Wang [Visual Poem]

Director Katy Wang and past-IFLA! illustrator Charlotte Ager bring a poem by American author and environmental activist Wendell Berry’s to life. Sweet and restful, the pair made the artistic choice to ensure the protagonist's figure is carved from the space in between the colourful brushstrokes of the landscapes, not separated by lines from the world around him. A beautiful reminder for all of us experiencing the lockdown blues or climate anxiety.

The Condor & the Eagle (2019) Sophie Guerra, Clement Guerra [Documentary]

The Eagle And The Condor is an ancient prophecy. It states that when the Eagle of North America and the Condor of South America unite; the spirit of peace will awaken on Earth. This documentary follows four Indigenous Leaders from across the Americas as they aim to do just that. Mobilising to resolve social and environmental challenges, the documentary puts Indigenous Women at the forefront of climate justice in an epic story that extends from Canada and the US to the Amazonian jungles of Ecuador and Peru.

Narradores de Javé (2003) Elaine Caffe [Comedy]

Narradores de Javé is a Brazilian comedy by Elaine Caffe that follows the villagers of a fictional town as they write the 'great history of Javé' to prevent the construction of a hydropower project. Told by officials the village would only be salvageable if it was a site of 'national heritage,' the villagers manipulate their only literate member to record the oral histories of the village people, dating right back to the conquistadors. Through a sequence of entertaining events Caffe questions societal notions of 'history' and the cultural and environmental impact of valuing written over oral methods. Despite the comedic lightness, the plot reveals a system to which some communities don’t even stand a chance.

Angry Inuk (2012) Alethea Arnaquq-Baril [Documentary]

Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril joins a younger generation of Inuits campaigning to challenge long-established perceptions of seal hunting. Using social media and their own sense of humour, this small group of Indigenous Campaigners take on the million dollar industry of animal rights organisations. A real jaw dropping watch, this documentary lays bare the deep hypocrisy of animal rights movements, exposing the devastating effects of their under-researched campaigns on Indigenous Communities. Angry Inuk beautifully captures Inuit history and culture, and provides an excellent critique of settler colonial environmental organisations.

Kowkülen, Sebastian Calfuqueo (2020) [Moving Image Art]

Kowkülen is a short audiovisual poetry production by Sebastian Calfuqueo, a Chilean visual artist of Mapuche descent. Their work centres on Indigenous epistemologies and struggles against the neoliberal backdrop of post-dictatorship Chile. This piece suspends human-nature and gender binaries, rejecting westernised colonial practises to redefine our relationship with nature and what it means to us.

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