- 2018 FiRe Featured Film: The Human Element
Renowned photographer James Balog (CHASING ICE) uses his camera to reveal how environmental change is affecting the lives of everyday Americans. Following the four classical elements— air, earth, fire and water— to frame his journey, Balog explores wildfires, hurricanes, sea level rise, coal mining, and the changes in the air we breathe. With compassion and heart, THE HUMAN ELEMENT tells an urgent story while giving inspiration for a more balanced relationship between humanity and nature.
From the Academy Award® Nominated Filmmakers of “Chasing Ice”
- 2017 FiRe Featured Film: Chasing Coral
“Coral reefs are the nursery for all life in the oceans, a remarkable ecosystem that sustains us. Yet with carbon emissions warming the seas, a phenomenon called “coral bleaching”-a sign of mass coral death-has been accelerating around the world, and the public has no idea of the scale or implication of the catastrophe silently raging underwater. Chasing Coral taps into the collective will and wisdom of an ad man, a self-proclaimed coral nerd, top-notch camera designers, and renowned marine biologists as they invent the first time-lapse camera to record bleaching events as they happen. Unfortunately, the effort is anything but simple, and the team doggedly battles technical malfunctions and the force of nature in pursuit of their golden fleece: documenting the indisputable and tragic transformation below the waves. With its breathtaking photography, nail-biting suspense, and startling emotion, Chasing Coral is a dramatic revelation that won’t have audiences sitting idle for long.” – h/t Rotten Tomatoes
- 2016 FiRe Featured Film: “Unlocking the Cage”
Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After thirty years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Steve and his legal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), are making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal from a thing with no rights to a person with legal protections.
Supported by affidavits from primatologists around the world, Steve maintains that, based on scientific evidence, cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins, and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights (such as bodily liberty) that would protect them from physical abuse. Using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), Wise argues on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York State.
Unlocking the Cage captures a monumental shift in our culture, as the public and judicial system show increasing receptiveness to Steve’s impassioned arguments. It is an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever transform our legal system, and one man’s lifelong quest to protect “nonhuman” animals.
- 2015 FiRe Featured Film: Racing Extinction
In Racing Extinction a team of artists and activists exposes the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way we see the planet.
Two worlds drive extinction across the globe, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species. The international wildlife trade creates bogus markets at the expense of creatures that have survived on this planet for millions of years. And the other surrounds us, hiding in plain sight – a world that the oil and gas companies don’t want the rest of us to see. Using covert tactics and state-of-the-art technology, the Racing Extinction team exposes these two worlds in an inspiring affirmation to preserve life as we know it.
From the Academy Award® Winning Filmmakers of “The Cove”
- 2014 FiRe Featured Film: Alive Inside
As dementia continues to affect millions of elderly Americans, Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory reveals a remarkable, music-based breakthrough that has already transformed lives. Spearheaded by social worker Dan Cohen and captured on camera over the course of three years by filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett, we learn that songs from a patient’s past can awaken memories and emotions that have been asleep for years, sometimes decades.
Within a moment of hearing “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys, Alzheimer’s patient Marylou jolts back to life, dancing around the living room and expressing a euphoria her husband hasn’t witnessed since her illness took effect. Countless instances in Alive Inside provide proof that music stimulates activity in dementia-affected parts of the brain and transforms the quality of life of those often left to languish in silence.
Through revealing conversations with renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks and musician Bobby McFerrin, as well as powerful firsthand experiments conducted by Cohen in nursing homes, this groundbreaking documentary demonstrates how connecting the elderly to the music they love not only combats memory loss but also supplements a broken health-care system often indifferent to interpersonal connections.
- 2013 FiRe Featured Film: Pandora’s Promise
The recent reactor meltdowns in Japan have ignited passionate worldwide debate about energy and the future of nuclear power. PANDORA’S PROMISE is a feature-length documentary that explores how and why mankind’s most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately embraced by many of those who once led the charge against it. The film is anchored around the personal narratives of a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists and pioneering scientists who, in the face of considerable controversy, are directly challenging the anti-nuclear orthodoxy that is a founding tenet of the mainstream environmental movement. Their stories and ideas will be brought to life through a combination of incredible archival footage from 1945 to the present and original filming across the globe.
Operating as history, cultural meditation and contemporary exploration, PANDORA’S PROMISE aims to inspire a serious and realistic debate over what is without question the most important question of our time: how do we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it?
- 2012 FiRe Featured Film: Chasing Ice
2012 FiRe Featured Film: Chasing Ice
In the spring of 2005, National Geographic photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change and a cynic about the nature of academic research. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: the Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.
As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.
UPDATE: Even prior to its fall 2012 theatrical release, as of August 2012 Chasing Ice had won 15 awards, including the Sundance Cinematography Award and a Sundance nomination for Grand Jury Prize, and the SXSW Audience Award. Its theatrical release is scheduled for November 2012 in select theaters.
UPDATE (10/4/2012): The Chasing Ice team is very proud to announce that we have just been awarded Best Documentary at the 22nd Annual Awards of the Environmental Media Association. This honor recognizes the work that Chasing Ice is doing to provide visual evidence of climate change and highlight climate change as one of the most important issues of our time.
View more news about Chasing Ice here.
Participant at FiRe 2012:
James Balog, Photographer
Board of Directors, Earth Vision Trust
Director, Extreme Ice Survey
4780 Sterling Drive, Suite B
Boulder, Colorado 80301
O: (303) 494-1737
C: (303) 888-4211
Extreme Ice Survey is a research affiliate of:
The Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research, University of Colorado
Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University
Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) is a project of Earth Vision Trust (EVT). EVT’s mission is the creation of innovative visual evidence of our impact on ice, air, water, forests, and wildlife. Ten years, a billion people, inspired to change. EVT creates inspirational public installations and educational materials, and keeps James Balog and his team in the field.
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- 2011 FiRe Film: The Last Mountain
From the website: In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle with severe consequences that affect every American, regardless of their social status, economic background, or where they live. It is a battle that has taken many lives and continues to do so the longer it is waged. It is a battle over protecting our health and environment from the destructive power of Big Coal.The mining and burning of coal is at the epicenter of America’s struggle to balance its energy needs with environmental concerns. Nowhere is that concern greater than in Coal River Valley, West Virginia, where a small but passionate group of ordinary citizens are trying to stop Big Coal corporations, like Massey Energy, from continuing the devastating practice of Mountain Top Removal.
Massive profit allows Big Coal to wield incredible financial influence over lobbyists and government officials in both parties, rewrite environmental protection laws, avoid lawsuits, and eliminate more than 40,000 mining jobs, all while claiming to be a miner’s best friend.
… [A] belief that America was founded on the democratic principal that no individual or corporation owns the air and water and we all share the responsibility of protecting it, drives these patriotic citizens and their supporters from outside of Appalachia, like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to keep fighting…. The Last Mountain shines a light on America’s energy needs and how those needs are being supplied. It is a fight for our future that affects us all.
UPDATE: The Last Mountain was selected as a 2011 Sundance film and named a New York Times “Critics Pick.” Inspired by the film and its outreach campaign, a growing number of nonprofit and grassroots organizations have joined forces to launch an innovative campaign to promote the film and raise awareness to end mountaintop removal, promote economically viable and sustainable energy solutions, and direct folks to find meaningful ways of staying engaged in the debate. Want to join them? Visit their website here: www.dontwatchthisfilm.org.
Participant at FiRe 2011: Tim Disney, Executive Producer (pictured)
Take Action: http://thelastmountainmovie.com/take-action/
- 2010 FiRe Film: Climate Refugees
From The New York Times: “During the shooting of his 2010 documentary Climate Refugees, the Irish-American filmmaker Michael Nash visited nearly 50 countries in about 18 months, interviewing politicians, scientists, health workers and victims of floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts.”His conclusion was that short- and longer-term changes in climate are causing vast numbers of people to abandon their jobs, homes and countries to seek better lives elsewhere, or to simply survive….
“Mr. Nash poses a basic question: what will become of the millions of people whose lack of access to food and clean water leads them to take increasingly desperate measures? What type of strains will huge migration put on resources in more developed countries?
“Will this dislocation eventually, as the retired Navy vice admiral Lee Gunn told Mr. Nash, pose a threat to Americans’ national security, too?
“By focusing on the consequences of climate change rather than its scientific causes, some experts suggest that Mr. Nash succeeded in circumventing a divisive political debate over global warming and the extent to which human activity contributes to it.
“‘Whether it’s man or nature causing the climate to change, we still have to deal with islands going under water and people running out of food,’ Mr. Nash said….”
Participants at FiRe 2010: Michael P. Nash, Director; and Stephen Nemeth, Executive Producer
- 2009: The First FiRe Film Screening: The Cove
From the website: Academy Award® Winner for Best Documentary of 2009, The Cove follows an elite team of activists, filmmakers, and freedivers as they embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, shining a light on a dark and deadly secret.Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, including hidden microphones and cameras in fake rocks, the team uncovers how this small seaside village serves as a horrifying microcosm of massive ecological crimes happening worldwide. The result is a provocative mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure, and arresting imagery, adding up to an unforgettable story that has inspired audiences worldwide to action.
The Cove is directed by Louie Psihoyos and produced by Paula DuPré Pesmen and Fisher Stevens. The film is written by Mark Monroe. The executive producer is Jim Clark, and the co-producer is Olivia Ahnemann.
UPDATE: Winner of 46 awards as of July 2012, including the Academy Award® for Best Documentary of 2009, The Cove continues to have a powerful effect on reducing the dolphin kill in Taiji and keeping mercury out of the lunches of schoolchildren in Japan.
Participant at FiRe 2009 and FiRe 2012: Louie Psihoyos, Director