We recently hosted a festival of films to inspire and celebrate the successes, achievements and hard work of biodiversity conservation people and projects around the world. Creative director of the new Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival, Simon Dures presents these films below and explores why they’re essential viewing.
The extent of doom and gloom in the reporting of biodiversity and climate news is to such a magnitude that eco-anxiety is being recognised as an increasingly prevalent mental health issue. Working in conservation, however, we know that there is a huge amount to be hopeful for and many projects doing amazing work to protect and restore the world’s biodiversity.
In an effort to be a balancing force, the Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival (ECFF) has been founded by Edinburgh Conservation Science (ECoS). Its mission is to showcase achievements in biodiversity conservation and to show people what can be, and is being, done to help preserve the world’s natural diversity.
The first ever Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival took place this year at the end of May in the auditorium of The National Museum of Scotland. We had a fantastic turnout with people from Edinburgh and beyond coming to watch the films on show.
77 short films were submitted to the festival, with eleven making the final selection. Each film was judged on its conservation relevance, storytelling and its ability to inspire or engage the audience in a positive way. The submissions came from across the world. Some were made right here in Scotland and others much further away, in places like India, Kenya or Lebanon.
Another aim of the film festival is to raise awareness of COP15, due to take place in Montreal between 5 and 17 December this year. You may have never heard of it, so ECoS commissioned a film to explain what it is and why it is so important. Before we present the other films below, watch this one to whet your appetite!
What is COP 15?
The four selected films in the first group each showcase the work and achievements of an individual or a small group. They document how people can help biodiversity and, indeed, help themselves by their actions.
Why I capture Wildlife
The Bat Man and Woman of India
The next four films feature projects that represent the often-overlooked aspect of our biodiversity. The first tells the story of a wonderful project helping some of the little creatures of this world, the insects. The next three films focus on different projects that are working to preserve the diversity of one essential component of our ecosystems, the plants.
Standing up for the Little Guys
Saving the Rainbow Goddess
Cattle in the Forest
Plants Under Pressure
Diversity in birding
After learning about projects working to preserve the biodiversity of insects and plants, comes a film produced by Stephen Magee and featuring Sorrel Lyall, entitled Diversity in birding. Although this film was not among those shortlisted for this festival, the organisers decided it was an important message to show.
The film illustrates the barriers encountered by many people in our communities. This includes barriers that affect people’s ability to participate in wildlife conservation activities. As Silvia says, “to maintain and protect biodiversity, we need inclusive societies where everyone is needed and valued. From those that had, and continue to have, similar experiences like yours, thank you for your bravery, Sorrel.”
The two films in the final category are very different from each other. They are deliberately aligned as they collectively offer inspiration on how we can work towards the ideals of biodiversity conservation.
Earlier in April, NatureScot published its vision for the next four years, centred on plans to “Protect, Restore and Value Nature”. These two films capture the ambition, choices and opportunities that lie ahead. The films point to what we have to do to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.
The Invention of Less
You’ve seen the films now, but which ones won? All of the films had been entered into the festival with the chance of winning one of the four category prizes or being the overall winner.
Why nature matters: Choices
Fixing Nature and Climate: Rush
Connecting People and Nature: Team lioness
Innovation and tools for biodiversity: Standing up for the little guys
Recognising the bravery of Sorrel Lyall for standing up and delivering the important message seen in Diversity in Birding, the film was awarded an honourable mention for the bravery shown in raising an important issue in conservation.
Choosing an overall winner was a difficult decision. In fact, the judges asked the organisers to allow them to give a special commendation to the runner up. This was given to Rush.
The winner of the first Edinburgh Conservation Film festival is Choices from Scotland the Big Picture.
Mat Larkin receiving his awards for ‘Choices’ on behalf of Scotland the Big Picture
We have received wonderful feedback from the audience about how the films had made people feel inspired and provided a sense of hope that so much is being done to help the conservation of global biodiversity. We can’t wait for the second Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival and hope to see you there!
Simon Dures is a conservation biologist and photographer, and the Director of the ECFF.