Home > Feature reviews & previews > How To Change The World: the birth of the modern eco-movement

How To Change The World: the birth of the modern eco-movement

Monday 7 September 2015, by Abla Kandalaft

The Sheffield Doc/Fest Environmental Award winner charts the early days of Greenpeace and the eco-movement, from its humble beginnings as a ragtag band of hippies attempting to stop a nuclear test to the establishment of a media savvy, international campaign group.

The starting point is 1971, when a small group of activists, including rookie journalist Robert Hunter, set sail from Vancouver to try and stop a US nuclear test in Amchtika, an island on the west coast of Alaska. The coverage the expedition received and the momentum it created encouraged the group to take action on other environmental issues. Hunter set his sights on whale hunting, and with a much bigger crew, camera in tow, he embarked on a trip round the Pacific to find and hault whaling ships. The activists failed to stop the killing but captured the crucial moment the whale was it on video. They released the footage to the media and created a “mindbomb”, a term coined by Hunter to mean a hard-hitting image that is widely circulated, sending shock waves around the world and spurring people on to take action; what we would today call “going viral”. The group clearly understood the power of images and the documentary reveals the strategic, meticulous planning that went into capturing them. The strategy paid off, the movement grew exponentially and rallied thousands of people to its cause.

The story is told by weaving together Hunter’s own recollections and writings, narrated by actor Barry Pepper, previously unseen footage and iconic images, animation and interviews. The film is structured around the 5 steps it takes to create a movement to instigate social change, thereby providing a sort of anatomy of activism and raising a number of issues common to nearly all campaign groups: sustainability, momentum, organisation, funding and, of course, egos and personality clashes. For the uninitiated such as myself, the way their changing relationships unravel makes for surprising and gripping viewing. How To Change the World is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging portrait of the movement’s founders.

The film’s launch in the UK and Ireland on 9 September will include an exclusive screening of the film followed by a satellite Q&A hosted by Mariella Frostrup.

The panel will feature fashion designer and Greenpeace supporter Vivienne Westwood, director Jerry Rothwell, Robert Hunter’s daughter Emily Hunter and a number of special guests to be announced. The film will open nationwide on 11 September.

Tickets are available at http://howtochangetheworldfilm.com/

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