Oct 2, 2023
Brett Marty, Josh Izenberg
Brett Marty, Josh Izenberg
Tim Shields, Frank Guercio, Dr. Kristin Berry, Sara Hanner
Tim Shields, a conservation biologist based in the Mojave desert in California, loves reptiles, tortoises perhaps most of all. The Mojave was once home to an abundant population of these shelled creatures but, as is becoming a familiar theme these days, these numbers have dwindled dramatically in recent years. Unwilling to “no longer be passive and simply watch the end of the show”, Eco-Hack showcases Shields’ ingenious and creative ways to step in and try and help.
How, you might ask. Well, while there are some causes that are difficult for Shields to directly challenge such as climate change and increasing human population, there is one threat that Shields feels he can do something about; ravens. Because if the viewer didn’t know before, they will soon learn from co-directors Joshua Izenberg and Brett Marty’s short but compelling documentary that besides being perhaps the smartest of all birds, ravens present a very real threat to tortoises, especially those who have yet to reach an age where they can protect themselves, and Shields is determined to tip the scales the other way.
Eco-Hack is not only a film that looks to serve as an inspiration for others to act, or at the very least start thinking, but also a dedication to those already looking to make a difference. At the centre of this uniquely fascinating documentary of one man’s mission to make a difference is a well-crafted and balanced film championing the tireless efforts of its subject.
Thankfully, just to be clear, Shields’ methods only ever mean to deter and never harm, Shields himself a believer that more can be learned from these birds by discouragement and observation rather than complete removal. Complete with his own guy-in-the-chair Frank who outfits him with everything from spray-traps loaded into super-realistic looking, 3D printed fake tortoises to high-powered lasers used to disperse large flocks and countless other gadgets, Tim’s mission is one of endless ingenuity and determination, and Eco-Hack showcases that very well.
Izenberg and Marty also do well to make sure their film doesn’t feel one-note, neither presenting such a topic as mere doom-and-gloom or as a completely light-hearted affair, but rather finding just the right balance of the in-between. A celebration of nature, yet also a reminder of its fragility, managing to hit home the heart-breaking numbers forcing the hands of people like Shields to finally step in rather than be simple observers. Eco-Hack does take its subject matter seriously but allows the audience the space to smile through it as well. And with Shields as its very likeable and inspiring subject, the film does what it should in showcasing him and his work front and centre.
Short yes, but nothing short of an inspiring film of ingenuity, tenacity and belief in making a difference.