Addressing Climate Change through Films

Mobile Film Festival

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

The Mobile Film Festival, an initiative to discover and support rising film talents and young enthusiasts, will help struggling filmmakers in the country to become professionals.

The Film Festival is an international short-film festival committed to climate issues. The theme of the 17th edition, in partnership with the United Nations, is Making Peace with Nature.

Out of the 692 films received from across the world, a film from Bhutan has broke its entry into the competition in the official selection category and is now available on all social platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For 17 years, the Mobile Film Festival has championed the democratization of filmmaking by zeroing in on storytelling and not big-budget productions. That is why shooting films on mobile phones, limiting film length to 1 minute, and free registration puts all filmmakers on equal footing, no matter their economic status.

A short documentary film ‘Snow Lion and the Glaciologist’ by renowned Bhutanese documentary filmmaker, Arun Bhattarai, shows in a poetic way, the journey of a glaciologist and how dangerous the mountains have become because of climate issues.

The director and the producer of the film, 36-year-old, Arun Bhattarai, said, “This theme is important for me because all around me in Bhutan we are slowly feeling the impact of climate change. Because of the rapid melting of ice, the glacial lakes have turned into ticking time bombs. A glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) could happen at any time which could devastate the lives of people living downstream.”

Bhutan’s northern-most region is pristine. It remains largely untouched by humans. But amidst its hypnotic beauty lurks danger—the danger of GLOFs.

Arun said he follows Phuntsho Tshering, his protagonist who is also one of the only two glaciologists in Bhutan, to weave his story to tell the visible aftermaths of global climate change.

“He is in charge of measuring the glaciers. My inspiration is the work done by this team who work for National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM). Every year they risk their lives to measure the lakes and the glaciers of Bhutan so that preventive measures can be taken in case a GLOF strikes,” Arun said. 

This film is an immersive journey. In this journey Arun says that we traverse with Phuntsho Tshering who travels for days on foot to the remotest corners of the Bhutanese Himalayas measuring the glaciers as they rapidly melt because of climate change. 

According to him, the one-minute film is a small visual poem that describes the emotional as well as physical struggle as he and his team climbs the mountains. 

He further added, “Phuntsho Tshering was my class mate and close friend in high school. Since then I have followed his journey to become a glaciologist. His genuine passion to mitigate the effects of a GLOF made me decide to follow him.”

Arun said he is one of the few documentary film makers in Bhutan and that he shares the same responsibility like Phuntsho to tell the world that climate change is real and a small country like Bhutan is facing the consequences without it being majorly responsible for it.

“Bhutan is a carbon negative country yet it is facing the brunt of climate change. I would like the bigger nations to listen to the plea of smaller nations and have a broader vision for the future so that we still have our nature intact for the next generation,” Arun shares.

He said that trough the story of my main character he hopes viewers can realize what it takes for a little country like ours to protect our community against climate change.

Arun has committed to make at least one film in Bhutan every year about the impact of climate change so that in few years’ time, his films can be a reference for how the world has changed because of the impact of environmental degradation.

A press release from the Mobile Film Festival states that this is to take part as a positive impact film festival. By creating new narratives and storytelling, which are trying to participate in the necessary changes for the fight against climate change.

These grants enable the winning directors to make subsequent short films with professional resources and the support of a producer. The prizes will be awarded by a jury composed of personalities from the world of cinema and culture committed to environmental issues, added the press release.

Since its inception, going digital has been the DNA of the Mobile Film Festival, whose creative and brief format allows for distribution on all screens.

In its five previous editions, the Mobile Film Festival has received 6414 films from 157 countries, achieved an audience of over 134-million views, and supported young creators with a total of €327,600 ($381,500) in production grants.

“The Mobile Film Festival team and all its partners sincerely hope that these one-minute films from all over the world will make people think and, above all, react to climate issues. Let’s make peace with nature together!”

The COP 26 conference, which ran until 12 November, is the most important international conference for the future of the planet.

The Mobile Film Festival proposes a different approach, less technical and not scientific, through stories made by young and talented filmmakers from all over the world to Make Peace with Nature.