Voices of Transition is a documentary showcasing inspirational ecological projects that are pioneering new ways for communities to rediscover their purpose and, with the end of cheap oil, come together to prepare for the turbulent times we face. The film was conceived after witnessing first-hand the bloody, deceitful tactics employed by big agro-industrial companies to grab land from indigenous tribes in South America. I consciously chose, however, to highlight initiatives like the Transition Towns movement to inspire people to find ways to have positive impacts within their own lives. When I began making the film, I was sick of watching documentaries that left me feeling depressed and helpless. Positive examples are a much more potent call for action than negative scenarios. And I really wanted this to become an “action” film!
The film starts by outlining some of the problems - soaring food prices, proprietary GMO seeds, soil erosion - all the usual suspects - but I tried not to dwell on those too long. Instead, I interviewed community organisers like the incredibly charismatic Rob Hopkins in the UK, agroforestry experts like Christian Dupraz in France and Cuban agroecology pioneer Fernando Funes-Monzote. Regardless of where they learned their lessons, they’ve come to variations of the same conclusion - that it’s absolutely possible to sustain ourselves, live fuller lives and have a healthy and sustainable relationship with the environment. So it’s up to us - we don’t need to wait for permission from anyone and neither should we wait for the politicians to provide us with blueprints, because they very likely won’t.
I see Voices of Transition as much more than just a documentary film. I hope it will act as a catalyst for positive societal change. It should not only kindle feelings of hope and re-empowerment, but also lead to a significant, concrete effect on the ground. In order to achieve this, the film is not so much addressing a naive public, but rather an audience that is already pretty well informed, and looking for the missing piece of the puzzle. I like to think of the transition movement as being that last link that closes the circle. The answer to the, often despairing, question “But what can I do?”
Communities making the transition must seek to connect groups that are already working on different elements of sustainability and resilience. Bringing together groups with different skills but a common motive provides the community with a giant boost towards coordinated action. Later, when all pulling in the same direction, people realise that it’s a lot of fun to live an ethical, sustainable life and be creative together! It’s the opposite of the anaemic, impoverished life that businessmen imagine when they think of a ‘degrowth’ society.
Even though it is a self-financed, independent film, we make public screenings as accessible as possible and ensure that community organisations pay much less than commercial cinemas. We always encourage organisers to have a ‘meet-and-greet’ session at their screenings, where those attending spend three minutes getting to know the person in the seat next to them. As an aside: we have some strong evidence that those moments have been successfully used for flirting! A contribution from us, perhaps, to the “multiplication” of the transition movement. In all seriousness, we strongly encourage the screenings’ organisers to invite existing local sustainability groups to say a few words about what they doing the area. In this way we hope that the films contributes in a small way to fostering resilient links that will enable communities to weather the coming crisis caused by climate change and the end of cheap oil.
What’s more, we’ve got a few success stories to back up our hopes! After the film finished its German tour, we heard back from a dozen initiatives that had started as a direct result of having seen Voices of Transition. A lot of people testify that after having seen the film, they felt the urge to grab a spade and start digging up the parking lots in front of their houses! So while we’re very happy when people rent or buy the film via our website, because it allows us to fund our next project, what we would really like is for as many people as possible to use it as a tool to convince their friends to get active as well.