Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Koyaanisqatsi - an activist's film?

At the weekend, Friends of the Earth Scotland hosted a showing of Koyaanisqatsi as the closing night of the Take One Action! activism film festival at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word meaning life out of balance and this film shows a world very much out of balance with the natural environment. it's a visually mesmerising collage of constantly moving images of technology and overcrowded cityscapes. It was shown on this occasion with a live musical accompaniment by Urban Farm Hand. It was a great event, this is a film I missed when it came out and I was really pleased to see it at last, and the music was a perfect match. However, I don't think this is a good film for an activist event, because:

*it's unremittingly grim and made me feel more like giving up than increasing my activism
*it's over 20 years old and despite all the activism of the last twenty years the film is still relevant - showing it now seems to imply activism changes nothing
*although the film has a message its quite nebulous and doesn't give the viewer a focus for any activism

In a general sense I would argue that films aren't intended necessarily to inspire activism, but this was a festival of activism. Which environmental films would you show to inspire activism? Indeed, are there any such films?


Mistlethrush said...

I haven't seen the film you refer ot but think that focusing on one issue can have more impact.
I can still recall a documentary about a polar bear struggling against melting ice. I have since read several poems in the small presses which I suspect were inspired by that film footage.

robin bird said...

Juliet thank you very much for commenting on my blog! i am completely inspired by your prolific use of blogging as a means for expressing yourself, your ideas and your creativity..namely your writing. this is an amazing feat to me. And your poetry and haiku are beautiful as well as thought provoking.

Lucy said...

I've got that film! Actually they are all quite depressing really. I'm not sure its being wordless helps...

I don't know what would inspire in the way you say.

kouji said...

am rather fond of an inconvenient truth. :)

YowlYY said...

I know the film, and I know the follow-up, Powaqqatsi, as well.
What is an activist film? A good question. For me, it is a film that inspires me to get up and do something to change the world. One step at a time. Slowly but surely.

And a word on the soundtrack: Philip Glass is fantastic!

Lucy said...

And there are also 'Chronos' and 'Baraka' in that series.

We talked a bit about this, and though we aren't particularly activist people, more quietist really, these days, we concluded that actually upbeat things with plenty of information, which might make you angry but don't make you despair, and convince you of the possibility of change, perhaps in particular areas, probably make us feel more positive and motivated to go on paying our subscriptions and signing petitions and perhaps stop us doing the wrong things without thinking about it...

Crafty Green Poet said...

Lucy - i agree with your second comment exactly, I think those are the types of films that inspire

Yowlly - we didn't get the original soundtrack, the live band played their own thing, very good it was too, but it wasn't Philip Glass... I agree with your words about what inspires too

Kouji - yes that's a good one.

Mistlethrush - I agree that its better to focus on one issue

Robin Bird - thanks for visiting and your kind comments

Stephanie said...


I never saw Koyaanisqatsi but loved Powaqqatsi. It changed how I looked at the world in a really profound way. On urban development, land, the people who work the land, technology. Never thought of it as an activist movie, but now that you bring it up, it is a movie that makes you think. I remember being 21, watching it in a theater and feeling suddenly "guilty" as I ate my pack of M&Ms.

I love art that connects with my inner being without being preachy. Call it quiet activism, or straight up empowerment.

Phillip Glass rocks.

Thanks for bringing this up!