Be Enlightened: Enviro Docos at MIFF 2019

Be Enlightened: Enviro Docos at MIFF 2019

With climate change and coverage around the environment such a hot topic, MIFF’s Environmental Documentaries program strand adds to the ever growing conversation. But these films aren’t the “in-your-face”, doom and gloom messages about our ecosystem. The following films offer a more subtle approach to an enviro doco. 

By Anthea Clarke


Mystic elves. Busy bees. Farm animals. What connects these stories is the human element. The unwavering eco-conscious beliefs and shared determination among the people across these films elevate this strand and its overall message, marking its captivating effect. 


THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM (which is selling fast!) is a strikingly personal documentary, where a husband and wife team, John and Moly Chester, start up a farm for the first time. Its light-hearted opening coupled with breathtaking visuals throughout ensure this film is delightful viewing. Plus, the abundance of animal footage will definitely feed your visual appetite. Who doesn’t love cute farm animals?


Over several years, they face the reality of Mother Nature’s unyielding behaviour and grapple with the delicate dance of balancing biodiversity’s coexistence. Every step of the way, you can’t help but cheer on the Chesters and their Apricot Lane Farms crew on their victories, mishaps and dilemmas. With such an intimate snapshot into the world of agriculture, this film will fill you with awe and admiration for organic farmers worldwide.

HONEYLAND Filmstill03


Crossing over to a rural village in North Macedonia, remarkable Turkish woman Hatidze Muratova generously grants filmmakers Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska intimate access her life in HONEYLAND. Hatidze’s saintly relationship with bees and her traditional way of beekeeping is a wonder to behold. This film may not initially seem to scream "environment" but when a new neighbour comes into the picture, it tips the scales and prompts discussion on pressing issues – such as capitalism and sustainability – that are relevant all over the world. 


Roaming further up north, Iceland is back on screen with a real-life Halla (Woman at War, MIFF 2018). In THE SEER AND THE UNSEEN, Ragga’s mission to preserve precious landscapes from being turned into roads may seem like a rite of passage for environmental activists. But her reason has an unusual stance. Hidden people or “huldufólk” are what drives Ragga to do what she does. And it is these firm beliefs that make her story fascinatingly moving. 


They also add a unique dimension to an enviromental doc that invites you to understand more than just the relationship between Ragga and these hidden folklore creatures. It paints a bigger picture of Iceland’s urban boom and its drastic effect on the local community, and environment. Plus, the film is full of grand landscapes.


The way a person sees the land determines how they relate to the land.” – Ragnhildur ‘Ragga’ Jónsdóttir


I think her sentiment translates well as you view and explore this program. Depending on how you see each film, whether as an “in-your-face” lecture or a beacon of enlightenment, there's a trove of thematic trinkets waiting to be found. Ultimately, the essence of these films is the powerful relationship between humans and Mother Nature. 


And I hope that through this strand, it will bring you one step closer to reflecting on your own connection with this beautiful planet that we call home.

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