In today's tempestuous times, the symbolism of extreme weather reminds us of our lack of control of our world and our lives in it. As the human race’s impact on the earth is felt more and more, so our lives are mirrored in the idiosyncrasies of unpredictable rains, winds, and storms. The films spotlighted here explore the emotions, and perhaps lack thereof, to be found outside our windows and inside our souls.
The destructive power of an imbalanced nature is the unifying thread of two juxtaposed narrations on the ecological devastation wrought by our institutions of greed.
Aerial snapshots of the ecological devastation of the Alberta crust are narrated in hushed tones, as if the truth is too terrible to be spoken out loud. The rhythmic lilt of the narration belies an almost unfathomable reality as the camera transverses scene after scene of the impact that the mining of water and oil have had in these ancient lands.
A rural community in Bangladesh finds itself made an island in the midst of severe flooding and monsoons. In the face of Poseidon’s inexplicable anger, the community has banded together to build walls of mud to protect their homes from the encroaching waterline. An act of hope in desperate times. Will it be enough? Much like the placid voice narrating the film in it’s entirety, the seeming peacefulness of the waters gives way to the panic of scurried action along the makeshift breaker wall.
In the face of such destruction, what can one do? The film’s protagonists take different approaches. The disembodied narrator gives voice to stories not her own. The bleak Albertan oil fields stand witness to their decimation, a stoic silence. The multitudinous villagers bring their individual contributions of sacks of mud in plastic rice bags to protect their communal land from encroaching floods. The viewer is a passive participant and is left to wonder about their own response to the seismic earth events of our times.
Deep Weather (Ursula Biemann, 2013, 11 min)
Pele, the goddess of volcanoes in Hawaiian folklore, is honored for her wild and unpredictable emotions. Her destructive creativity gives space for the building of character of the humans she tempts. In parallel, the eponymous mountain demon depicted in this film also offers the young filmmakers at work an opportunity to prove their own worth. As a rain of ash from a nearby active volcano descends on the young men’s town, they take an afternoon to film their rotund friend giving life to the local legend of Lembusura. The demon lives in the volcano and it is his anger that causes the ashes to fall.
A lighthearted film—the costumed Lembusura asks for the video to be posted on youtube—the ten-minute documentary shows an afternoon in the life in the shadow of an active volcano and a small glimpse into some of the tales it has given birth to.
Lembusura (Wregas Bhanuteja, 2014, 10 min)
This animated short simply explains the story of fossil fuels and the impact of our increasing demand for the finite resource. Told in stark black and white etchings and moving silhouettes the somber film asks the viewer if they are ready to let go of their power—the ability to afford a comfortable lifestyle possible only by the conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels and their derivatives.
Hydrocarbon (Karim Niazi, 2015, 2 min)
No one quite does Surrealism as the Spanish do, and perhaps that is due in part to the ethereal landscapes of the Catalunia coast. The unexpected nature of the surrealist scenes interspersed throughout the interviews play to the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions, and non-sequitur expected of the genre.
Cutting back and forth between interviews of residents of a small fishing village and surreal expositional footage, the filmmakers posit perhaps the work of Dali wasn’t so mad after all. He was merely depicting a landscape and the subconscious of its people warped by hurricane-strength winds for months at a time. Winds of this strength, whether in reality or in metaphor, cannot leave those who experience them unchanged. We adapt to accommodate, sometimes taking unrecognizable forms.
Tramuntana (César Pesquera, 2013, 5 min)
About the author
Bettina is a communications consultant, whose work supports social change initiatives in health and clean energy in southern Africa and Latin America. Her work has seen her teaching photography courses to youth in villages across Botswana, writing content for high ranking officials working in HIV/AIDS programming, and building business case studies for clean energy investments across southern Africa. She is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa.