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Planting Earth Week short film review


Directed by: #BrianRyu


This short docufilm centres on the mindsets and approaches of 2 climate activists in gaining government attention and bringing change to human contribution to climate change. While their rebellion is persistent, our activists are also frustrated and resort to more unruly and disruptive ways to appeal to the government about this global issue.

It’s a tricky one. What’s the best way to protest? Peacefully, artfully, violently, controversially etc. How do we agree? On one hand, you need to use methods that will get attention and have you heard, on the other hand, you don’t want to be shut down before anyone even knows about your cause and can support it.

We’re first introduced to Karlos Edmonds, a member of the XR (Extinction Rebellion) climate change movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to protest. Despite having been arrested numerous times for his disruptive protests, Karlos plans to conduct a mass planting of trees in New York’s central park to commemorate the 50th Earth Day. As we get to know Karlos, we learn that standing up for what you believe in can sometimes be a lonely fight, especially if what you believe in isn’t always trending or a popular cause. Director Brian Ryu treads carefully with his editing and only merely touches on Karlos’ mental health as a topic, possibly to avoid intentionally portraying Karlos in a negative light and to keep the spotlight on the message of the film.

Karlos, as an activist, can appear somewhat disorganised in his approach to campaigning and, sometimes, seems to have his own views on what is classed as ‘non-violent’. The only thing keeping Karlos from using more controversial means of protest is his desire to stay out of prison for his son.

Ellisif Wasmuth, another climate activist for the XR movement, takes a more amiable approach to protesting and is even against the use of ‘violent’ words. This, however, should not be mistaken for weakness as she clearly, and rightfully (some might feel), taps into her assertive side when challenged, and readily yet peacefully defends their need to cause disruption. Ellisif protests as part of a group, which on some level may mean that she doesn’t need to be as controversial as Karlos wants to be to gain attention; Karlos seems ready to do what ‘needs to be done’ whether he’s alone or not.

In an interview, Brian Ryu commented that “...most of the climate movement is decentralised.”, adding that while participants agree that change needs to happen, they don’t agree on how this should happen, leading to a lack of progress.

The inserted clips of news reports and conferences on climate change, protests and even a short snippet of Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you…” speech, all serve their purpose in reminding the audience that climate change is very real, regardless of how we may feel about those who are protesting and their methods.

Filming was unfortunately disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown measures and so director Brian Ryu had to quickly and abruptly round up his docufilm.

Effective methods of protest are always debatable, but ‘non-violent’ methods, many may feel, are less likely to result in crackdowns which would ultimately subdue the voices that are striving hard to be heard.


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