4 must-watch movies at the Singapore Eco Film Festival that won’t depress you

Singapore’s biggest environmental film festival is just around the corner. Eco-Business picks out four eco flicks that are entertaining, informative and refreshingly un-depressing.

A scene from Chasing Coral, one of the films to feature at the Singapore Eco Film Festival this year. Image: Netflix
A scene from Chasing Coral, one of the films to feature at the Singapore Eco Film Festival this year. Image: Netflix

The thing about movies about the environment is that they tend to be about as uplifting as watching a film by Lars von Trier on a Sunday night after being dumped by the love of your life.

Happily, the Singapore Eco Film Festival (SEFF) is back next month on a mission to show eco flicks that, for the most part, don’t make us want to give up and throw ourselves out of the window.

There are, however, a few that will keep gloom porn fans happy, such as Freightened, a harrowing documentary about the dark side of the shipping industry (watch the trailer, here) that may touch a nerve with a local audience— Singapore is one of the world’s busiest ports.

The festival is to screen 21 films over three days at the ArtScience Museum from 1-3 September. The movies fall under three themes—consumption, environmental protection and the oceans—and feature a range of stories from around the world, on subjects as diverse as the plight of giraffes and an orchestra that plays instruments made out of trash. 

Attendence is completely free - except for the opening night’s film, Acid Ocean, which will be screened at The Projector.

Here are four films from SEFF that will inspire you.

1. Landfill Harmonic

An oil drum for a cello, a bent kitchen fork for a violin tailpiece. An uplifting film about upcycling, Landfill Harmonic tells the story of people living on a rubbish dump in Catuera, Paraguay, who make musical instruments out of trash and play in an orchestra that tours the continent. “The world sends us garbage, we send back music,” says Favio Chavez, director of the orchestra. The idea has led to similar schemes in Ecuador, Panama, Brazil and Burundi.

2. Chasing Coral

The world’s corals are in serious trouble due to rising sea temperatures and pollution. But the encouraging thing about this film is that we learn that these incredible animals, which will live as long as they’re allowed to, have remarkable powers of resilience. So do the people who made the film, who went to extraordinary lengths to capture footage of coral bleaching and persisted despite a series of major setbacks.

3. Race to Zero

The city of San Francisco is dreaming big. It aims to completely eliminate waste within three years. How? By looking at trash not as trash but a resource, and building an industry around it. Race to Zero is a fast-paced, upbeat documentary that shows how a city can reimagine a culture around waste.

4. Thank You For The Rain

An inspiring tale about Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer who documents the impact of climate change on the rural community where he lives. An apocalyptic storm brings him together with a Norwegian filmmaker, and a new life begins for Kisilu as an activist at the Paris climate talks.

Spreading the word

SEFF also features a series of activities, including panels discussions on the themes raised in the films, and a workship on underwater photography ran by Simon Enderby, a photographer whose subjects have included salt water crocodiles, sea lions and killer whales.

To spread the sustainability word beyond the festival dates this year, SEFF has partnered with green lifestyle event EarthFest to enable people to host their own eco film screenings. To do that, go here.

Films include Cowspiracy, which is about the monster environmental impact of the meat industry, A Plastic Ocean, an equally stark look at the suffering of our seas, and Disobedience, a story that aims to inspire the viewer to join a protest movement against the fossil fuels industry.

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