AND THE BEST PICTURE FOR LEADING ROLE IN SUSTAINABILITY GOES TO…

And if one of the best way to vehicle messages were movies! January and February are the busy months for the Golden Globes and Oscars, should not we reconsider the movies that are being rewarded? Criteria would be actually the basics of marketing and communication:

  • Intelligibility of the message: is it clear and simple enough to be understood?
  • The aftermath: what is the impact on people’s behaviour?
  • Promotion: is it in line with the message of the movie?
  • Distribution in movie theaters: can the movie be watched by many people?

Visual arts, means to carry sustainability message

This is not a new trend to use arts. Since the 18th century visual art – also known as Romantic Movement for the period (John CONSTABLE, J.M.W. TURNER) – has been one of the mean used to vehicle messages related to environmental movement.

Coast of Yorkshire near Whitby - J.M.W. TURNER

Coast of Yorkshire near Whitby – J.M.W. TURNER

La bahia de Weymouth - John Constable

La bahia de Weymouth – John Constable

Pursuing this way of communication, visual arts went also on our screens and there are numerous movies that are either fully related to environmental issues, or could be interpreted as so. There are among them movies accessible for children but in a sense there are probably the most important. Indeed, as an adult, to change behavior is quite difficult; habits are sticking so hard to the skin! However, children are continuously learning and such teachings are benefiting their own future by getting good habits at the very start learnt from parents of course and from what they see. In the 20th century, one of the most important movie treating environmental issues is Princess Mononoke (1997; Hayao Miyazaki), as the principal character is actually a forest. Hayao Miyazaki used Japanese mythologies to carry his message: destruction of nature harmed not only existing fauna and flora but also human beings.

Mononoke

… we don’t know yet who are the Oscars winners, but let’s have a look to past super productions Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Avatar, these films were quite of a success worldwide; they were all praised by the public and critics and distributed in most of movie theaters.

nemo

1- Finding Nemo (2003; Lee Unkrich and Andrew Stanton): The pitch of Finding Nemo was quite basic to understand:  Nemo has been captured by a dentist and put in an aquarium to be then given as a gift the dentist’s niece. Nemo’s father, Marlin, tries his best to get him back to his real home: the ocean. During Marlin’s entire journey, the audience discovers the wealth of the ocean and how natural currents are essential to the cycle of so many living species (East Australian Current used by the turtles). But unfortunately, the message behind was totally misunderstood by the public: instead of protecting and preserving the ocean, demand for tropical fish, especially the clownfish has increased in such a way  that it caused reef species decimation in Vanuatu and many other reef areas (source: David Fickling, Reefs at risk after Disney film. (The Guardian, 21 November 2003). On the other hand, there are also “Individuals [who have released] their pet fish with the best of intentions, but in the wrong ocean. It is a really bad idea. The incoming fish can drastically alter the ecological balance of an area” (source: quote from Brice Semmens, taken from Charles Arthur, ‘Finding Nemo’ pets harm ocean ecology. (The Independent, 1 July 2004). Although Finding Nemo has been rewarded by Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, in 2003, if there were an award in environmental benefits category, the film would not have probably met similar success although the intentions were there.

walle

2- Wall-E ( 2008; Andrew Stanton): The movie is showing the audience one of the major issues the world is facing today: accumulation of garbage due to consumption. In the movie, we understood that Earth became unliveable, at such point that people are living in spaceships, while robots are tidying the mess left by them. There are different ways to manage garbage; the most used being landfill, incineration and recycling. Landfill is the most commonly used; it consists of burying the disposal of waste material under layers of dirt. In Turkey 97.8% of our trash (see the graph below) is actually put in landfill, which let a thin share for recycling… (source: Martin Medina, Talking Trash. (Foreign Policy, No. 168 (Sep. – Oct., 2008), pp. 40-41, published by: Washington Post. Newsweek Interactive, LLC).

table

However, the movie shows some hopes as at the end, people come back to Earth and start to clean up what they left. As a result, people should not rely on robots to clean what they engender but take responsibility and do it themselves before it is too late…

avatar

3- Avatar (2009; James Cameron): Although there are many interpretations that have been made on Avatar (scarcity of natural resources on Earth, Iraq…); regarding sustainability aspects, the movie is actually a perfect illustration of the Gaia theory as defined by James Lovelock: “[…] the Gaia hypothesis views the earth as a single organism in which the individual elements coexist in a symbiotic relationship.” (Kemp, Exploring Environment Issues (2004). In short, the Gaia theory highlights that the entire ecosystem is interdependent and interconnected; so is the Na’vis inhabitants and Pandora (their planet). The illustration is emphasized through the connection made between all living species: Na’vis connect themselves to any living species thanks to their tail. This is one of the reasons why the Na’vis are caring so much about their environment. They are fully aware of this connection and even taught it to Jake, the human using a Na’vi avatar, who then turn to fight to protect Pandora. Our planet has also natural cycles that exist for millions of years, but get disrupted because of humans’ actions. Considering Pandora as our Earth, and knowing this interconnection between the living elements on our planet, should not we do our best to protect it?

Spread messages through visual arts, and especially through movies are the probably the best way to reach the biggest audience and thus, raise more awareness. However, the way a product is marketed and the way used to communicate on it must be in line. This should be the main rule to care of, otherwise what is expected from the audience may not happen; they may even behave in the total opposite.

Turkey is contributing strongly too

Besides movies, lots of documentaries have been made as well such as An inconvenient truth (2006; Davis Guggenheim), The 11th Hour (2007; Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen), The Cove (2009; Louie Psihoyos ) etc. And 2012 has been marked by major Turkish documentaries:

ekumenopols2

Ekümenopolis: City Wihout Limit [Ekümenopolis: Ucu Olmayan Sehir] (2012; İmre Azem). Istanbul is sold as a “global city” to the world. But the real matters have been forgotten: people living in Istanbul.  Although, Regional Developments Programs, supported by the European Union, are being implemented throughout Turkey, to reduce the economic and social disparities among the diverse regions of Turkey (source: http://ec.europa.eu/), the main focus is still put on Istanbul, as it longs for becoming the “finance hub” of the region. The documentary shows all the impacts of this booming economy on social and environmental aspects, because there are many especially when “the first plan for Istanbul on a metropolitan scale […] noted that the topography and the geographic nature of the city would only support a maximum population of 5 million. At the time, Istanbul had 3.5 million people living in it. Now we are 15 million, and in 15 years we will be 23 million. Almost 5 times the sustainable size.” Source: Ekumenopolis

Fatih Akin

Polluting Paradise (2012; Fatih Akın). This documentary focuses on the Turkish village of Çamburnu in Sürmene, which has been turned into a rubbish dump. It has been a project carried over 5 years (starting from 2005) by the director Fatih Akın. The documentary has been now presented during different festivals, starting with the Festival de Cannes (France, 18 May 2012), then Athens Film Festival (Greece, 20 September 2012), Hamburg Film Festival, (German, 28 September 2012), FilmEkimi (Turkey, 5 October 2012) and the Göteborg International Film Festival (Sweden, 25 January 2013) (source: http://www.imdb.com/). I could not watch it yet but I’m looking forward to it.