Your guide to environmental documentaries at the ReFrame Film Festival in downtown Peterborough

Themes at 16th annual festival running from January 23 to 26 range from sustainability and climate change to social justice and indigenous rights

Students gather for a climate change protest at Peterborough City Hall in a still from "You(th)". The short film by local high school student Nico Ossa opens the 16th annual ReFrame Film Festival at Showplace Performance Centre on Thursday, January 23rd, accompaning the award-winning feature-length Peruvian documentary "Máxima" that premiered at Hot Docs 2019. Both documentaries speak to the power of individuals to make change. (Photo courtesy of ReFrame)
Students gather for a climate change protest at Peterborough City Hall in a still from "You(th)". The short film by local high school student Nico Ossa opens the 16th annual ReFrame Film Festival at Showplace Performance Centre on Thursday, January 23rd, accompaning the award-winning feature-length Peruvian documentary "Máxima" that premiered at Hot Docs 2019. Both documentaries speak to the power of individuals to make change. (Photo courtesy of ReFrame)

From Thursday, January 23rd to Sunday, January 26th, four venues in downtown Peterborough will come to life with screenings of over 80 films from all corners of the world. The 2020 ReFrame Film Festival will welcome film buffs, directors, producers, and film subjects to the heart of the Electric City.

The 16th annual festival boasts a curated collection of the best international and local social justice documentary films of the year. The ReFrame Virtual Reality Hub will also return for a second year in the lobby of VentureNorth (270 George St N, Peterborough).

ReFrame is well known for encouraging dialogue and debate around environmental themes. I had the chance to talk about these themes with ReFrame creative director Amy Siegel. To help you chart your course through the schedule, here are a few highlights. The full schedule (including links to a description of each film) can be viewed online at reframefilmfestival.ca and on kawarthaNOW.

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Opening and closing films: You(th), Maxima, and Town of Widows

This year’s film schedule as a whole explores the topic of aging through the lenses of environmental and social issues. It is no coincidence that the festival opens with the premiere of You(th) (Thursday, January 23th at 7:30 p.m. at Showplace) and closes with the premiere of Town of Widows (Sunday, January 26th at 4:30 p.m. at Showplace).

The former is a short documentary by local Grade 12 student Nico Ossa about the student-led climate strike, and the latter is a feature-length documentary by Rob Viscardis and Natasha Luckhardt that follows the widows of former GE employees as they seek justice and compensation over the course of three years.

“A few months ago, I decided to take my camera to a youth-organized event protesting against climate inaction,” Ossa explains. “Lots of us don’t have a voice in politics due to our age, while we are the ones who’ll have to withstand the long-term impacts and consequences of climate change.”

“This film is a call for action, but at the same time a message of hope. Thanks to ReFrame I could work with local filmmaker Rob Viscardis to edit the film and I am thrilled it’s opening the festival and going to reach so many people.”

A still from "Town of Widows" by local filmmaker Rob Viscardis and Natasha Luckhardt. (Photo courtesy of ReFrame)
S still from “Town of Widows” by local filmmaker Rob Viscardis and Natasha Luckhardt. (Photo courtesy of ReFrame)

With these bookends, and a rich selection of documentaries in-between, the entire festival will leave you thinking about how we act to sustain quality of life and what is expected of and demanded by today’s youth.

This year’s opening ceremony will bring home the power of individuals in making change locally and globally. After You(th) in the opening ceremony is Máxima by award-winning Peruvian Director Claudia Sparrow.

Máxima explores how one person can make a difference for hundreds of thousands of people by protecting land and water against the power of global corporations. This documentary tells the story of Máxima Acuña, an indigenous subsistence farmer in the Peruvian highlands who fought to retain her land rights against the world’s second-largest gold mining company.

VIDEO: “Máxima” Trailer

 

Friday and Saturday highlights: There’s Something in the Water, The Whale and the Raven, One Thing in Nothing, The Hottest August, Great Green Wall, and A Garden Video

Friday offers three environmental documentaries. In There’s Something in the Water (Friday, January 24th at 1 p.m. at Showplace), Canadian actor Ellen Page uncovers the injustices of environmental racism in her home province of Nova Scotia, with guidance from Ingrid Waldron’s book of the same name.

VIDEO: Clip from “There’s Something in the Water”

“Page’s documentary is relevant for Peterborough,” Siegel observes. “Environmental racism and lack of access to clean drinking water are unfortunately part of our history and our present.”

The Whale and the Raven (Friday, January 24th at 5 p.m. at Showplace), by documentarian and cultural anthropologist Mirjam Leuze, explores the complex tapestry of issues surrounding a potential liquefied natural gas plant and increased tanker traffic in the Great Bear Rainforest on Canada’s west coast.

VIDEO: “The Whale and the Raven” trailer

Friday evening is an invitation to enter the perspectives of Canada’s neighbours to the south. One Thing in Nothing (Friday, January 24th at 7:30 p.m. at Market Hall) is a three-minute documentary examining a child’s memory of the most destructive wildfire in California history.

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Toronto filmmaker Brett Story will be here in person to share her feature-length documentary The Hottest August (Friday, January 24th at 7:30 p.m. at Market Hall), which asks residents of New York City what they see in the future as they endure the hottest August on record amidst the tensions of a new presidency, wildfires, hurricanes, rising rents, and white nationalists.

“The Hottest August has been acclaimed for how it talks about climate change without actually mentioning it more than once or twice,” Siegel explains. “It leaves you with a lot to think about, and we’re very lucky to have Story here in person to be part of that discussion.”

VIDEO: “The Hottest August” trailer

Great Green Wall (Saturday, January 25th at 5 p.m. at Showplace) has been described as “Buena Vista Social Club meets Years of Living Dangerously.”

“This is musical road trip meets documentary,” says Siegel. “Malian singer Inna Modja travels from coast-to-coast across Africa, speaking with locals as she follows the path a proposed 8,000 kilometre wall of trees.”

“It’s a beautiful film. It shows the devastation of migrations and conflicts due to resource depletion, but it also shows remarkable hope in particular with how Ethiopia has revitalized food systems after years of famine thanks to collective efforts to plant trees.”

VIDEO: “Great Green Wall” trailer

Great Green Wall is paired with A Garden Video, a seven-minute doc by local filmmaker Justin TenEycke.

The film takes us inside the Heads Up For Inclusion gardens at The Mount Community Centre, showing us some of the ways cultivating food and working the land provide a sense of community and give gardeners an opportunity to develop valuable skills.

A still from "A Garden Video", a short film by local filmmaker Justin TenEycke. (Photo courtesy of ReFrame)
A still from “A Garden Video”, a short film by local filmmaker Justin TenEycke. (Photo courtesy of ReFrame)

 

Sunday highlights: Honeyland, Lake, Artifishal, and Motherload

Start the final day of the festival with Honeyland (Sunday, January 26th at 10 a.m. at Showplace).

“The filmmakers describe Honeyland as more of a parable than a conventional documentary,” Siegel says. “This is not your typical documentary or environmental activism film. At its heart, this is a visually stunning portrait of a woman living off the land.”

“The subject of the film is one of the last traditional wild beekeepers in the mountains of Macedonia.She abides by the ethos of only taking what you need, and the film explores what happens when a new family moves in next to her with different values.”

VIDEO: “Honeyland” trailer

Lake and Artifishal (Sunday, January 26th at 12 p.m. at The Venue) both focus on the complex tapestry of issues surrounding fishing.

These films will be followed by a not-to-be-missed discussion of fishing and the local Otonabee River watershed, which was once home to the salmon nation until about 180 years ago.

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Motherload (Sunday, January 26th at 12 p.m.. at Showplace) is a must-see. Feeling trapped by car culture after the birth of her twins, director Liz Canning discovered a global movement to replace cars with cargo bikes as a method of hauling family-sized loads.

Motherload tells a global story about how the bike has historically been and could continue to be a tool for protecting both women’s rights and the environment.

VIDEO: “Motherload” trailer

“GreenUP is honoured to sponsor Motherload,” says GreenUP executive director Brianna Salmon. “This documentary shows how readily available solutions to the climate crisis also have the capacity to reduce social inequalities like gender and economic discrimination. We can implement solutions like these right here in Peterborough.”

“ReFrame 2020 is more relevant than ever. These poignant and beautiful films provide crucial insight into issues ranging from sustainability and climate change to social justice and indigenous rights. The hope, outrage, and perspective audiences experience are essential drivers in our commitment to reduce pollution by 45 per cent this decade.”

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ReFrame passes and tickets are available online at reframe.tickit.ca. A festival pass costs $60 ($50 for students, seniors, and the underwaged), opening night tickets cost $15 ($10 with a festival pass), and day passes (all films on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) cost $25.

Tickets are also available at the GreenUP Store (378 Aylmer St. N., Peterborough, 705-745-3238) and Watson & Lou (383 Water St., Peterborough, 705-775-7568), and in Lakefield at Happenstance Books and Yarn ()44 Queen St., Lakefield, 705-652-7535).

As always, rush pay-what-you-can tickets will be available at the door for every screening (subject to availability).

The full schedule of the more than 80 documentaries screening during the ReFrame Film Festival, including dates and locations, is available at reframefilmfestival.ca and on kawarthaNOW. You can also follow ReFrame on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

kawarthaNOW is proud to be a sponsor of the 2020 ReFrame Film Festival.

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