Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah is going on now from through Jan. 31. It's one of the largest independent film festivals in the world, attracting some 50,000 attendees. The festival is well known for its outstanding films, and this year does not disappoint.
Here are four must-see environmental films showing at this year's festival:
1. How to Let Go of the World (And Love All the Things Climate Can't Change)
"What are the things that climate change can't destroy? What are those parts of us that are so deep that no storm can take them away?" That's the pivotal question in Josh Fox's latest film, How to Let Go of the World (And Love All the Things Climate Can't Change). The Emmy-winning director travels the world to connect with communities who are already dealing with the consequences of climate change.
In the film, Fox meets scientists, artists, entrepreneurs and environmental activists who are investing in renewable energy instead of climate-damaging fossil fuels. The film highlights these pioneers as proof that a renewable energy future is indeed possible and all hope is not lost.
Coinciding with its Sundance premiere, Fox's team launched a Kickstarter Campaign, $100K for 100 Cities, to raise support to show the film in 100 cities and towns that are threatened by fossil fuel infrastructure projects like fracked-gas pipelines and power plants.
2. Unlocking the Cage
In Unlocking the Cage, renowned filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus document animals right activist Steven Wise's courtroom battle to expand legal "personhood" to include certain animals. Wise's plaintiffs are two chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko—former showbiz stars. Wise exposes the cruelty these two and other animals have experienced at the hands of humans. Wise argues that without "personhood," these animals are seen as "merely things" that are "invisible to the law."
"Propelled by one man’s life mission of 30 years, the filmmakers mine this obsession and dedication to a cause that many experts feel is ripe for skepticism," says the Sundance summary of the film. "Heartwarming and challenging, this powerfully crafted story does a remarkable job breaking down the science, legalities and psychology behind a battle that, against all odds, has the potential to transform our legal system and effectively break down barriers between humans and animals."
3. When Two Worlds Collide
Violence breaks out between government forces and indigenous people in what Sundance calls a "tense and immersive tour de force." Peruvian President Alan Garcia begins aggressively extracting oil, gas and minerals from untouched indigenous Amazonian land. Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango refuses to stand by and let that happen.
"Filmmakers Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel capture all angles of a volatile political and environmental crisis with breathtaking access and bold, unflinching camera work," says the Sundance summary of the film. "From the raucous halls of justice to deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle, When Two Worlds Collide exposes a titanic clash between a president hungry for economic legitimacy and an outspoken environmentalist desperate to protect an ancient land from ruin."
4. Mr. Pig
Eubanks (Danny Glover) is an old school pig farmer from Georgia, whose farm is on the brink of foreclosure. He decides to take his beloved pig, Howie, to Mexico to find him a new home. But Eubanks' drinking and his deteriorating health start to foil his plans. His estranged daughter, Eunice (Maya Rudolph), is forced to join them on their adventure.
"Director Diego Luna tackles the old and new in an age of global markets, factory farming and disposable relationships. Luna’s poetic postcard road film to Mexico, guided by a soundtrack evoking the South and old rock ‘n’ roll, is lyrically photographed following the gorgeously overgrown, winding roads of Central America," says the Sundance summary of the film. "Luna trusts his audience, letting the story unfold in a bold, un-expository way, allowing tour-de-force performances by Glover, Rudolph, and, of course, Howie the pig."
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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