PEFF 2020 Selections


Conscience Point

2019 | 74 minutes
Directed by Treva Wurmfeld

Official Website

The Hamptons: playground of the super rich. Epicenter of a luxury property boom, with developers scheming for any scrap of land on which to make millions. Meanwhile the original inhabitants of this beautiful peninsula, the Shinnecock Indians, find themselves pushed to a point of near extinction, squeezed onto a tiny 750-acre reservation. Over hundreds of years the Shinnecock have seen their ancient burial grounds plowed up unceremoniously: for the widening of roads, golf courses and new mansions. On the reservation wounds run deep.

Exploring the roots of American inequity, greed and pollution, Conscience Point contrasts the values of those for whom beautiful places are a commodity – who regard land as raw material to be developed for profit and pleasure – and those locals for whom land means community, belonging, heritage and home. Conscience Point metaphorically and thematically goes beyond the Hamptons to tell a story of fighting the elite 1% at a time when so many across America are also struggling to remain in gentrifying parts of cities under development for luxury homes and lifestyles.


Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy

2019 | 82 minutes
Directed by Elizabeth Carroll

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy is a feature-length documentary offering a candid look into the world of 92-year-old British chef and cookbook author Diana Kennedy, widely regarded as the world’s authority on Mexican cuisine. Standing barely five feet tall with a still-thick English accent, Diana is a formidable critic of any individual who doesn’t agree with her subjective views of Mexican culinary traditions, or, God forbid, doesn’t recycle.

Diana is a force of nature, living entirely in harmony with it. She designed and built her ecologically sustainable property outside Zitácuaro, Michoacán in 1974, where she continues to cook, recycle rainwater, use solar power, and grow her own vegetables, coffee, and corn. She is a staunch environmentalist, maintaining a collection of plastic bags she’s reused for a decade.

The author of eight cookbooks; Diana was decorated with an Order of the Aztec Eagle from the Mexican government in 1982; received a Member of the Order of the British Empire for strengthening cultural ties between Mexico and the UK in 2002; and is a 2014 inductee into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame.


The Elephant Queen

2019 | 96 minutes
Directed by Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble

Official Website

The Elephant Queen is Athena, a majestic elephant matriarch, who leads her family across an unforgiving, yet cinematic natural landscape made up of grasslands and woodlands, dotted with seasonal waterholes. The elephants share their home with a cast of supporting character species who provide texture and richness to the elephants’ ecosystem – from a toenail height perspective. Athena, as leader of her herd, anticipates the coming dry season and knows there are lean times ahead. As the waterholes dry up, she has no choice but to take her family on a treacherous journey across even more foreboding landscapes, as the majestic creatures seek refuge until the rains fall again.

Emperors of the Deep

2020 | 77 minutes
Directed by Bill McKeever

Official Website

Emperors of the Deep is a unique documentary that takes the viewer on a journey into the world of sharks. The writer and director, Bill McKeever, witnesses a shark tournament in Montauk. He is so shocked that he investigates further and exposes how shark tournaments kill scores of sharks for pleasure.

His tournament discovery generates more questions about what is happening to sharks and the threats that they face. He travels around the world to meet with experts and dive with sharks. As he does so, he uncovers more death and destruction on the high seas than one could possible imagine. His discoveries change how the viewer see sharks.


Eyes in the Forest

2019 | 19 minutes
Directed by Ryan Ffrench

The Amazon was the first victim of the peace process in Colombia. Since the demobilization of the FARC guerilla group in 2017, deforestation rates have spiked by more than 40 percent as illegal loggers exploit the power vacuum left behind by the rebels. Today the country is losing approximately 32 soccer fields of virgin forest every hour. Eyes in the Forest follows an expedition into these contested territories with Angélica Diaz-Pulido, a camera trap expert from Instituto Humboldt, and Jorge Ahumada, director of Wildlife Insights, a revolutionary new platform for analyzing camera-trap data. Angélica and the Wildlife Insights team are racing against the dark forces behind Colombia’s deforestation to understand and protect the country’s incredible biodiversity — before it is too late.

Farmscape Ecology

2020 | 26 minutes
Directed by Jon Bowermaster

Farming is ever-evolving. Today, when we think about what’s to come next for farmers, a key question is, “How do we produce food and still maintain a livelihood for farmers, while respecting the needs of other organisms with which we share the land?” Recent biodiversity decline can be partially attributed to the impacts of farming. For the past several years a small team of ecologists, herpetologists, micro-biologists, ornithologists, hydrologists, and farmers in New York’s Hudson Valley have been trying to answer the question, “Can wildlife and farming co-exist?”

A Fistful of Rubbish

2019 | 14 minutes
Directed by David Regos

A Western environmental documentary, A Fistful of Rubbish is set in the Tabernas Desert in Spain — Europe’s only desert. An area known for being the backdrop of many famous Western films, it is sadly being trashed. But now, with the help of some locals, an English expatriate is forming a posse and taking things into his own hands.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

2019 | 61 minutes
Directed by Shirah Dedman

Official Website

Follow the Drinking Gourd is a feature documentary about the Black food justice movement, connecting the legacy of slavery, land loss, and climate change to our fight for food security.

Invasion

2019 | 18 minutes

Official Website

Invasion tells the story of the ongoing struggle of the Unisto’ot’en Camp Of The Wet’suwet’en Nation to reoccupy their lands and stop pipeline construction.

Invisible Hand: Who Will Speak for Nature?

2020 | 80 minutes
Directed by Melissa A. Troutman and Joshua B. Pribanic

Official Website

Produced by award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo, Invisible Hand takes you behind the curtain of the global economy where “Rights of Nature” becomes “capitalism’s one true opponent.”

In the fall of 2014, for the first time in United States history, an ecosystem filed to defend itself in a lawsuit claiming its “right to exist” in Grant Township, Pennsylvania. For attempting such a radical act, Grant’s rural community of 700 people were sued by a corporation, then by the state government, and are now locked in a battle to defend the watershed they call home through civil disobedience. The water they drink, the Rights to Nature laws they’ve passed are all on the line in this exclusive story.

Half a continent away in Standing Rock, North Dakota, the same industry threatening Grant Twp. is using militarized force against indigenous tribes and allies fighting to protect Mother Earth. The two, Grant Township and Standing Rock, are joined in an international fight to protect more than just water. They fight for their community, democracy, and for Nature as a living entity unto itself.
In the end, “Who will speak for Nature?”


Just Keep Swimming

2019 | 12 minutes
Directed by Patrick Rynne

Official Website

Since 1946, scientists from the University of Washington’s Alaska Salmon Program have spent every summer in Bristol Bay, Alaska, studying the largest, healthiest and most valuable salmon fishery in the world. Their story, spanning over three generations, illustrates how academia and industry can work together to manage our natural resources and the importance of living in balance with a fully functioning ecosystem.

Kofi and Lartey

2018 | 22 minutes
Directed by Sasha Rainbow

Official Website

When Abdallah was growing up as an orphan in Northern Ghana, his grandmother taught him the importance of education to find his own way in the world. When she died, he travelled south in search of work and found himself in Agbogbloshie, a commercial district in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Agbogbloshie has one of the world’s biggest electronic waste dumps, home to 100,000 people. He spent long days enduring gruelling physical work and inhaling toxic fumes as he burned plastic off wires to extract valuable copper. This work financed Abdallah’s education and inspired him later to help children escape Agbogbloshie for a better life. Interested in how the media was portraying Agbogbloshie and its residents, Abdallah built a children’s play centre and began a film project with two 12-year-old boys, Kofi and Lartey, to give them the opportunity to tell their own story. When a huge flood hit Accra, killing 150 people, it plunged the city into chaos. This included forced eviction of tenants as government agents bulldozed their homes and demolished Abdallah’s children’s centre. Abdallah felt silenced and defeated but encouraged the boys themselves to film the world around them and reveal their true dreams and ambitions for their future.

Lamentations

2019 | 6 minutes
Directed by Jason Rhein

Official Website

Over the past eight years, Tina Freeman has photographed the Louisiana wetlands and Arctic and Antarctic glaciers. This short film chronicles the result of that journey: “Lamentations,” an exhibition held at the New Orleans Museum of Art from September 2019 through March 2020 that features photographs of both landscapes paired together. The Lamentations film, together with Freeman’s photographs, makes plain the crucial, threatening, and global dialogue between water in two physical states.

A native of New Orleans, Freeman has seen firsthand the deterioration of the Louisiana wetlands over her lifetime, resulting in once-healthy marshland eroding into open water. Seeing the gradual destruction of this environment close to home compelled her to travel to a similarly endangered environment – the Arctic and Antarctic regions – to document the melting of glacial ice due to global climate change. Freeman then began to pair her images of glacial ice with images from the wetlands in a series of diptychs that address climate change, ecological balance, and the connectedness of things across time and space.


A Living River

2019 | 23 minutes
Directed by Jon Bowermaster

Official Website

Despite its polluted reputation, the Hudson River is teeming with life. From the tiny Glass Eels to the massive 14 foot long Atlantic Sturgeon, a vital web of life defies decades of oppression. Organizations like Riverkeeper and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation use lessons learned from its past as a bustling commercial fishery to its present as a ecosystem in recovery in order to protect its future.

Lowland Kids

2019 | 22 minutes
Directed by Sandra Winther

Official Website

Lowland Kids tells the story of Howard and Juliette, the last teenagers on Isle de Jean Charles, a sinking island on the coast of Louisiana.
For the two siblings, this place has always been home. After losing their parents, their uncle has raised them on this island, passing on his love and appreciation for the land.But the island is running out of time. Due to rising sea levels and hurricanes, the Brunet family finds themselves forced to leave Isle de Jean Charles, and saying goodbye is not easy. The future can’t possibly be brighter than the life they have here. Or could it?To learn more about Juliette Brunette and her family read PEFF committee member’s article in Teen Vogue: The Last Teenagers on Isle de Jean Charles, AN Island Climate Change is Washing Away.

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall

2019 | 76 minutes
Directed by Alexander Glustrom

Official Website

Mossville, Louisiana: A once-thriving community founded by formerly enslaved and free people of color, and an economically flourishing safe haven for generations of African American families. Today it’s a breeding ground for petrochemical plants and their toxic black clouds. Many residents are forced from their homes, and those that stay suffer from prolonged exposure to contamination and pollution. Amid this chaos and injustice stands one man who refuses to abandon his family’s land – and his community.

Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man

2019 | 87 minutes
Directed by Lily Zepeda

Official Website

To a stranger, he’s a quirky Singaporean obsessed with toilets, but to those who know him he’s “Mr. Toilet,” a crusader in global sanitation. A former entrepreneur, Jack uses humor to campaign fo something no one dares to talk about: shit. It’s a crisis that impacts over 2 billion people. Having established UN World Toilet Day, Sim plunges into his biggest challenge yet when he is asked to help implement Prime Minister Modi’s promise of turning India into a defecation-free zone. But with few resources and no help from the government, Mr. Toilet discovers there is a price to pay for being the worlds #2 hero.

Octopus: Making Contact

2019 | 53 minutes

Official Website

Octopus behavior has fascinated humans for centuries; their unique shape and skillsets often provide the inspiration for extraterrestrials in science fiction. New in the world of cephalopod research is the extent to which these intelligent animals are individual personalities – able to recognize faces and interact with other individuals – all of which is an odd adaptation for an animal thought to live an asocial existence. Follow this new science through the story of a pet octopus and its evolving relationship with the passionate American scientist studying it. A production of PBS NATURE.

Picture of His Life

2019 | 72 minutes
Written and directed by Yonatan Nir and Dani Menkin

Official Website

He swam with crocodiles and killer whales, with anacondas and with great white sharks. But one major predator has always eluded Amos Nachoum. The legendary underwater stills photographer always dreamed of swimming underwater with a polar bear and capturing it face-to-face on film. He tried before and barely escaped with his life, but now, as he nears the end of his career, he is determined to give it one last shot. The danger is real, perhaps more real than ever, but this is his last chance to get The Picture of His Life.

Accompanied by Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Adam Ravetch, Amos dives into a world being rapidly erased by a changing climate and changing social norms. Adam was inspired by Amos at the start of his own career. Now is his chance to be there with his mentor on his last great adventure.

As he prepares to escape to the ominous tranquility of the Arctic Ocean, Amos contemplates the series of unspoken events that drove him here, to the end of the world. After living through childhood abuse and war, swimming with a ferocious predator in a silent, cerulean realm may be the closest he will ever come to achieving real peace. It has been a long and painful journey, but where others find fear, Amos finds redemption.


Pine Mud

2020 | 58 minutes
Directed by Jared Flesher

Official Website

In the vast Pinelands National Reserve of southern New Jersey, powerful vehicles topple protected sand dunes and drive circles through ancient ponds. “Off-roading” has grown more popular in the reserve, especially now that smartphones can help anyone navigate the winding trails of the deep forest. But to lump all off-roaders together would be unfair. In addition to those who use their vehicles for illegal destruction, others drive carefully on hundreds of miles of unpaved sand trails, an activity that remains perfectly legal. “Access vs. conservation” is the classic quandary here. The conflict has become bitterly contentious as the destruction of habitat for threatened and endangered species increases and the trails themselves start to deteriorate. Pine Mud takes an intimate look at this trouble in the pines, as seen through the eyes of a gritty but good-natured conservationist.

The Pollinators

2019 | 92 minutes
Directed by Peter Nelson

Official Website

The Pollinators is a cinematic journey around the United States following migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees as they pollinate the flowers that become the fruits, nuts and vegetables we all eat. The many challenges the beekeepers and their bees face en route reveal flaws to our simplified chemically dependent agriculture system. Beekeepers, farmers, scientists, chefs and academics give a broad perspective about the threats to honey bees, what it means to our food security and how we can improve it.

Push

2019 | 92 minutes
Directed by Fredrik Gertten

Official Website

Housing prices are skyrocketing in cities around the world. Incomes are not. Push sheds light on a new kind of faceless landlord, our increasingly unliveable cities and an escalating crisis that has an effect on us all. This is not gentrification, it’s a different kind of monster.The film follows Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, as she’s travelling the globe, trying to understand who’s being pushed out of the city and why. “I believe there’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity. Gold is not a human right, housing is,” says Leilani.

A Simple Life

2019 | 17 minutes
Directed by Myrto Papadogeorgou and Robert Harding Pittman

Official Website

“Nature is the mother of every creature. You tread upon the ground lightly. You respect it,” says Gioula.

Gioula is fighting to preserve her simple way of life with her family, dogs, cats, bees, chickens, horses, and hundreds of ancient olive trees on her farm on the coast of Greece. The arid region, where water is scarce and where people have fished and farmed for over 35,000 years, is threatened by plans to build a large golf resort destined for foreign wealthy sunseekers. Not only farming itself, but moreover, a way of life and a culture are in peril.

In Gioula’s words: “This is pure violence. Violence towards the earth.” In a time of economic crisis, development pressures are high. All Gioula wants is a simple life.


The Story of Plastic

2019 | 95 minutes
Directed by Deia Schlosberg

Official Website

The Story of Plastic is a seething expose uncovering the ugly truth behind the current global plastic pollution crisis. Striking footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with the poisonous runoff from plastic production and recycling processes with no end in sight. Original animations, interviews with experts and activists, and never-before-filmed scenes reveal the disastrous consequences of the flood of plastic smothering ecosystems and poisoning communities around the world – and the global movement rising up in response.

Youth Unstoppable

2019 | 86 minutes
Directed by Slater Jewell-Kemker

Official Website

At age 15, filmmaker Slater Jewell-Kemker began attending environmental summits, camera in hand, wide-eyed and ready to make a difference. What began as a single journey evolved into an intimate and challenging documentary shot behind the front lines of the largely unseen and misunderstood Global Youth Climate Movement. Seen through the lens of Slater’s camera, Youth Unstoppable documents the struggles, events, and first hand effects on the youth fighting to be heard at home and within the frustrating and complex process of UN Climate Change negotiations.