Earth’s Choice Award

Island Earth by Cyrus Sutton (USA) 63min. 

For honoring the Earth with the film, Island Earth, through how it was financed, the story that was told, how it was edited and now how it is being shared openly to the world.

With curiosity and creativity as his guide, Sutton reminds us that we are undeniably connected to the planet, and what we put in we will in turn receive. Sutton exposes the perils of industrial food practices using the canary in the coal mine environment of Hawaii. Island Earth is the result of a partnership with grassroots organizations such as Guayaki Teas, the world’s first fair trade certified Yerba Mate company, who has protected thousands of acres of South American rainforest; Dr. Bronner’s Soap, “the fighting soap company” who funds numerous projects from regenerative agriculture to animal advocacy.

Sutton peels back the layers on the GMO debate through the experience of world-renowned scientists and families living at ground zero of fertilizer and pesticide testing.  The film follows the journey of a sensitive few seeking to use the wisdom of the past to reclaim Hawaii’s role as an agricultural and environmental leader. It is stunning in its cinematic merits and inspiring in its elemental message.

“There is no difference between public health and environmental health…‘public health’ as if we aren’t part of the environment.” We share an evolutionary history with all life on Earth and if we think we can treat life like it is a testing ground for pesticides and herbicides and not be negatively affected, we are dead wrong.  (Quoted and paraphrased from the film Island Earth.)

Sutton submitted a report outlining his commitment to the themes of the film and to a lifestyle that exemplifies actions necessary to realize a sustainable future. This masterful film was edited by Sutton from his solar powered van, which he has lived in for the past 11 years- talk about a small footprint!

Now, more than ever, we need to celebrate and honor the intricacies of how we relate to each other and the planet, knowing that each step we take sends out a ripple. Sutton and his film Island Earth demonstrate a deep understanding and appreciation for the systems that ties us all together. Link to trailer: Here.

The Activist Award

The Bentley Effect by Brendan Shoebridge (AUS) 85min.

The Bentley Effect receives the Activist Award for showcasing a powerful activist movement and as a result, empowering viewers to take action. This film- the product of five years of documentation- traces a story that is both unique and universal: the struggle of environment against corruption, people against profit. The Bentley Effect provides a fascinating, up-close view of resistance culture and ignites a fire of defiance, outrage, and hope. The warriors at the front lines inspired thousands of people stand up to corporate actions and worked to halt the advancement of the coal seam gas industry. A moving portrayal of a ‘last stand’, The Bentley Effect has gone on to inspire mothers, fathers, doctor’s, artists and people from all walks of life to stand up against the fossil fuel industry throughout Australia and the world. Deeply empowering, honest and timely. “When our leaders fail us, ordinary people stand up and become heros.” Link to trailer: Here

The New Paradigm Award

Guided by Bridget Besaw (USA) 18min

Guided offers a wise reminder of the peace that comes when we connect to the planet that sustains us. The New Paradigm Award honors a film that portrays a healthier and a more harmonious relationship with Earth; an alternative-or in this case forgotten- paradigm. Guided profiles the gentle spirit of Maine wilderness guide Ray Reitze, in his element amidst the whispering pines, singing crickets and croaking frogs of the North Maine Woods. Ray shares his philosophy of how to live in harmony with our environment and offers a more spiritual understanding of nature and our ephemeral place in it. This film effortlessly captures the heart with sincerity and wisdom. More than offering a ‘new perspective’, Guided reminds us of our inherent connection to all aspects of the Earth, awakening in us what we know to be true in our souls. Link to trailer: Here.

Best Cinematography

Frontera Invisible by Nicolas Richat and Nico Muzi(COL) 28min.

A gripping film that charts the production of palm oil in Colombia and the devastating effects on communities and subsistence farmers. A wondrous cinematic journey, Richat uses the camera to continuously paint masterful imagery, each frame capable of standing on its own. Richat brings a sense of fine art photography to the documentary film world. Link to trailer: Here.

Best Editing

There Will Be Water by Per Liebeck, (DNK) 59min. Edited by Jacob Thuesen and Søren Ottosen.

The idea is simple – bring saltwater into the desert –evaporate it by means of the sun and create freshwater, food and energy in desert areas, thus creating the potential to change the lives of millions.  Faced with the prediction that “the next war in the Middle East will be a water war,” engineer Bill Watts devised a creative solution, rooted in biomimicry and pure ingenuity. There Will Be Water honestly portrays the struggles and successes of a team of visionaries. Thuesan and Ottosen transcend the traditional documentary format, employing a dynamic tempo to convey a sense of action and thrill. As a result, the viewer seems to be pulled in as a stakeholder; invested in the success of the project and the main character. The real life drama around climate change is with us and Thuesen and Ottosen masterfully brings that sense of urgency to the big screen. Link to trailer: Here.

Best Documentary Short

Being Hear by Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen (USA) 10min.

The young filmmaking duo have brought to us a charged short film the incorporates all the elements of a successful short documentary, tempo, cinematography, sound, editing in a way that has the audience mesmerized by its mastery. A film about sound that captures more than just our ears. Emmy Award-winning nature sound recordist and acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton works to protect the few remaining quiet places on Earth from noise pollution. Being Hear highlights his quest is to preserve silence as well as portray the importance of listening to the world around us. It is a marvelous journey into the auditory world of nature, leaving the audience with the realization of the profound interconnectedness of all things. Link to trailer: Here.

Best Narrative Short

The Pine Tree Villa by Jan Koester (DEU) 13min.

It is often the case that the most profound moments of realization do not come from the outside world but are born out of our own bones through what may be a random moment. The Pine Tree Villa, offers many moments of reflection for the audience to draw their own story. With Animals personified and universal emotions being represented; what is at stake is the same as it is in our world. All that we know and stand upon could come collapsing down at any moment. Link to trailer: Here.

Best Virtual Reality

Songs of the Vine by Maira Clancy and Blake Montgomery (USA) 15min.

If the goal is to have the viewer empathize with a story or art, then virtual reality is at the forefront of technological advances in that direction. We are thrilled by the prospect to have an audience changed by their experience for the better, to become ever more connected to the planet and each other.

Shot over the span of two months in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, Songs of the Vine is a virtual reality documentary focusing on the healing modalities, cosmovision, and culture of the Shipibo, an indigenous group well-known for its rich tradition of plant spirit shamanism, including a mastery of the visionary ayahuasca brew. By immersing the viewer into the depths of the Amazon jungle and exposing them to the medicine songs and perspectives of Shipibo healers, Songs of the Vine illustrates an ancient but increasingly relevant dynamic between humans and nature. A piece that has the ability reveal wisdom of the Amazon to an audience like never before.