In the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, we’re excited to be hosting a special program of talks and screenings including a provocative climate change film based on Naomi Klein’s international best-selling book, ‘This Changes Everything’.
Tapping into the momentum of the film and the broader climate justice movement, our series of talks and screenings gives the Melbourne community an opportunity to come together and be part of the collective conversation to confront the challenges of the future.
We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes of This Changes Everything and chat to the film’s Impact Producer & Distribution Strategist, Alex Kelly (pictured below), who is currently on the road in Europe for the project.
Fed Square: There have been countless films and documentaries created about climate change, how is This Changes Everything different to the others?
This Changes Everything does not have a singular policy aim or ask; the outreach strategy for this project is designed to give autonomy to local hosts to use the film as a tool for their organising in whichever way supports their work locally.
“We’ve seen the film used to drive discussions to stop coal mining, resist fracking, stop the XL pipeline, discuss austerity and fossil fuels, support first nations sovereignty and much more.”
You have an impressive background as an Australian film producer and social change activist – tell us how you became the Impact Producer for This Changes Everything and what the role involves.
I interviewed Naomi Klein for Voiceworks magazine in 2001 when she was about to come to Australia on her No Logo tour and then was part of the collective who hosted her at an independent media event. In 2006 I brought [film director] Avi Lewis to Alice Springs when he came to Australia with their last film The Take. In 2012 I was lucky enough to do a Churchill Fellowship looking at film and impact and connected with Naomi and Katie McKenna who leads the outreach team in Toronto. When Katie went on maternity leave a couple of years ago I covered for her and then never left! My role is diverse and global and involves communications strategy, producing materials like education and screening guides, coordinating the social media and most importantly building relationships with social movements around the world to figure out how we can best support and amplify their work with the roll out of the film.
Image: March against coal-fired power plant in Sompeta, India. Still from This Changes Everything.
Has working on the project changed your personal view of climate change?
I think I was one of the people who – as Naomi puts it – looked away from climate change. I had worked on a range of environmental issues, with a background in anti-nuclear activism – but had never worked on climate directly.
“I thought of climate as “another issue” and never really connected with it deeply. This has changed dramatically for me since reading Naomi’s book and making the links between economic justice and climate justice.”
Now I feel much more compelled – and hopeful – about engaging with climate change. This has been a huge shift for me.
This Changes Everything has already been screened in multiple locations around the world, and is now available on iTunes, what’s been the greatest achievement so far for the project?
It is hard to pick one singular moment! We get all sorts of emails and tweets from events around the world on a daily basis, which is an incredible thing in itself.
“The film is opening a space for people to have conversations about the world we want to live in and groups are seeking to connect across struggles including indigenous land rights, labour rights and racial justice – moving beyond a traditional notion of a climate activist is one of the most exciting things.”
The screening in Amsterdam projected on to a coal power station to 1200 people was also pretty cool!
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as Impact Producer?
Picking which thing to pursue – there are so many directions you can take a project in, especially when it is global and particularly in a moment when the climate movement is gaining momentum. Maintaining a clear vision and being responsive to opportunities is a constant creative tension – but it’s also one of the things I love most about the work – it’s totally dynamic.
Image: Burning Sugar Cane Field in El Salvador. Still from This Changes Everything.
How do you see this project impacting the upcoming COP21 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris?
Given the recent tragic events in Paris I think our role is going to be even more important during the COP21. Naomi’s idea of the Shock Doctrine is a very important one in this context – the way in which a shock is a moment when a gap opens up between an event and the meaning we prescribe to it. Naomi gave a talk in Stockholm this week and said “Often we [left / progressives] lack confidence in what we already know to be true in these moments” and if we don’t speak someone else will claim the space and prescribe meaning to it.
“So I think this is a critical moment for the climate movement to show real leadership and strength, to make the connections between climate, justice and conflict and against war…”
We can’t just talk about emissions reductions, we need to be talking about a new system and new ways of caring for each other and the earth. These attacks throw this in to high relief and the way in which we respond in the coming weeks is likely to influence the tone of geopolitics the next few years.
“This is not just about keeping climate change on the agenda – it is about deepening the conversation so we can see the ways in which conflicts are interconnected and how our solutions therefore must be interconnected as well.”
Finally, what role can local screenings and events – like the upcoming event at Fed Square – play in reframing the global response to climate change?
We need to have deep conversations about the world we want to live in and films offer one way of getting people together to start these conversations. A public screening in Federation Square is a really fantastic way of kicking off some conversations between people who turn up to see the film or people who happen to be passing by. By bringing stories from Alexis and Mike in Montana, Crystal from the Tar Sands and Mary in Greece to people in Melbourne I hope we can encourage a deeper conversation about why and how we must transform our society.
This Changes Everything will feature on Fed Square’s Big Screen along with two other screen-based works on Saturday 21 November. The screenings will be accompanied by talks from local leaders in environmental sustainability.