UK Nepal Climate Change Film Competition: We’re toast in 3 minutes!

Tell a climate story in just 180 seconds...
Tell a climate story in just 180 seconds...

In July 2007, we had an interesting discussion on this blog on the shrinking durations of Nature and environment films and TV programmes. The moving images community is divided on this, with some purists holding out that to pack complex, nuanced messages into a few minutes is akin to dumbing everything down. Noted film-makers like Neil Curry disagreed.

I revisited this topic in August 2008, saying: “But there’s no argument of the sheer power of well produced public service announcements (PSAs) to move people with a specific, short message. Nothing can beat them for the economy of time and efficacy of delivery.”

Kathmandu to Copenhagen - in three minutes?
Kathmandu to Copenhagen - in three minutes?
The trend to make ever shorter films has been fuelled by the growth of online video, where the dominant value seems to be: less is certainly more! This is the premise, for example, of the current competition One Minute to Save the World.

In Nepal, they were more generous — and allowed three minutes. I recently came across the winners of the UK Nepal Climate Change Film Competition, where Nepali film makers were invited to “make short, effective films of up to 3 minutes on the theme of Climate Change”. The submitted films had to be original in concept, innovative and highly motivational – no restrictions were set in terms of discipline or genre. It was organised by our friends at Himal Association, better known for sustaining Film South Asia festival for a decade.

The winning films were screened at an awards ceremony in September 2009 at the Regional Climate Change Conference in Kathmandu. They will also be screened at Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival 2009 (10-14 December) and will be broadcast on television.

The winning film, Act locally think globally, was directed by Santoshi Nepal and Ishu Lama:

First runner-up, Jeopardy, is an animation directed by Shiva Sharan Koirala:

Second runner-up, 3 Cs of Climate Change, directed by Binod K Dhami and Padam Raj Paneru:

The competition attracted an impressive 124 entries. Angelo D’Silva, an educationist and media critic in Kathmandu, recently reviewed the entries in Himal Southasian special issue on climate change. He wrote: “In cash-strapped times, these contests focusing on climate change prove to be a cost-effective strategy in generating content. With no funding directed to the filmmaker for production, and prize money amounting to NPR 130,000 (USD 1700) for the three winners, the climate-change film contest is a way to make a splash on the cheap.”

He added: “While the filmmakers, all of whom were Nepali, exhibited an impressive range and quality, it was a range obscured by the selection of some fairly typical public-service-announcement-type finalists. Hopefully, however, two sets among the entries will soon see the light of day: those documenting the effects of climate change on Nepali communities, and those exploring (and exploiting) anxieties and fears about the burgeoning climate crisis.”

Read full review here.

I have only seen the three winning entries that are available online, so it would be unfair to comment on other entries. But I found the three winners predictably text-bookish. For sure, simple awareness raising is always helpful, but much more is needed – and urgently so – to deal with climate change. Film can be a powerful force for changing lifestyles, and not all of them have to be feature film length in Al Gore style.