Remember Al Gore’s environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, released a decade ago? Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the film followed the former American vice president on a lecture circuit to raise public awareness on the dangers of global warming. This not only mobilised a generation of climate activists, it also surprisingly won an Oscar award. This year, Gore was back again with a sequel, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. The new film, released on July 28, showcased the tireless former vice president continuing his crusade to save the environment.
But there’s a question that begs to be answered: are environmental documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth enough to rally the public into action? Three young talents from Taylor’s University, Subang Jaya, Muhajir Anuar, Wong Jin Xian, and Madina Berkenova seem to think so.
Using new age media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, these budding filmmakers have each produced three short environmental PSAs (Public Service Announcements). The duration of these impactful PSAs ranges from about two to eight minutes and they all attempt to highlight various environmental concerns and offers suggestions on how we can save Earth.
Job well done
In acknowledgment of their talent and hard work, all three PSAs were submitted to the 10th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF), with each student receiving a Special Merit Award. They were also shortlisted for the ASEAN Young Film Maker’s Award, but unfortunately the competition proved to be insurmountable.
Held from Oct 23 to Oct 29, KLEFF is the country’s first and longest-running environmental film festival. Conceptualised by the non-profit environmental organisation EcoKnights, the festival, through its on-ground activities and film screenings, became the ideal platform for creating ecologically-conscious businesses, individuals, and communities.
In addition, KLEFF also works closely with numerous local higher institutes of learning, helping to provide a space for youths to voice their concerns pertaining to today’s environmental issues. This in turn breeds a new generation of eco-warriors whose mission is to provide Mother Nature with a voice to be heard. And for Muhajir, Wong and Berkenova, this was an experience they’ll never forget.
Save Her, Save Us, Save Me
Muhajir Anuar, 21, Bachelor in Mass Communication (Broadcasting) student
“It’s shocking for me because I’ve never entered any film competition before this,” admits Muhajir in reference to his PSA being shortlisted and awarded at KLEFF. “But it’s very satisfying for my team mates and me to know that our hard work is acknowledged.”
The Subang-born Muhajir isn’t a novice in the industry. He has been producing short films as a freelancer for several clients since 2015. However, Save Her, Save Us, Save Me is his first PSA about the environment. The video, which is just under four minutes long, features a personification of Mother Nature in the form of a forlorn and beaten up girl crying out for someone to save her. It also showcases the many scenic locations that can be found in our country.
“The focus of my video was on the neglect for Mother Nature due to human greed. It’s always good to grow the nation and move towards a modern society but we need to know how to balance between modernisation and cherishing Mother Nature,” explains Muhajir.
The affable young man shares that his production doesn’t just strive to educate people. It will also bring the audience on a sensory journey to feel how it will be like if the environment is destroyed. “It should tug at heartstrings,” says Muhajir who’s confident that his combination of dramatic visuals coupled with stirring audio will spur the public into action.
His eyes earnest, he concludes: “People need to be reminded as vividly as possible that if we lose the nature we have, we’ll never get it back. Then all those apocalyptic movies won’t just be movies, they’ll be a reality!”
Madina Berkenova, 20, Bachelor in Interactive Multimedia Design student
Hailing from Almaty, Kazakhstan, Berkenova is the youngest among the trio seated in front of me today. Her anguished cries over her polluted beloved city are palpable from across the table. “You don’t see beautiful mountainous landscapes anymore. There’s only a blanket of grey haze,” she reveals, adding that the dire situation in her country is really breaking her heart.
Continuing, Berkenova attributes the lack of knowledge about the environment to be among the main reason why her fellow countrymen are destroying Mother Nature. “Many do not realise that they may be the cause of the problem. Either that or they just don’t care enough to do something about it,” she confides.
The third year student admits that she too was far from being well informed prior to directing her PSA, Today’s Special. It was during her recent participation in another environmental competition that she grew more aware of the dire situation. “I met a scuba diver restoring dying coral reefs and I learnt a lot from him,” she shares, adding: “And one of the things that I’ve learnt is that the ocean and its creatures are really important for the ecosystem, which we are a part of.”
“So, if we pollute one part of the cycle such as the ocean, aren’t we essentially polluting ourselves?” questions Berkenova before explaining that her PSA was created to answer that very question. The PSA, which is just under two minutes, features a couple dining on a ‘today’s special’, which, at first glance looks just like any normal meal. But a closer inspection reveals that the ‘food’ on their plate is not food but is actually human garbage such as plastic and paper.
Pensively, this eco-warrior concludes: “Our ecosystem is like the karmic cycle — what goes around, comes around. So, if we take care of the nature around us, we’ll also, without a doubt, be taking care of ourselves too. And that’s important.”
Change is Now
Wong Jin Xian, 22, Bachelor in Mass Communication (Broadcasting) student.
This former Leo Club environmental chairperson has always believed that we don’t appreciate the environment enough. And he strongly feels that it’s our lackadaisical attitude towards Mother Nature that will eventually see to her demise.
This is why his PSA comes in the form of a vlog that tracks two individuals (Natalie and Josh) living very different lives for a week. It employs one of the current self-filming trends, where a GoPro was strapped on both the representatives’ wrists. The end result is a recorded social experiment lasting just under eight minutes that shows how much waste one can reduce by practicing a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. “It’s a self-reflective video that calls for people to instill good habits that hopefully will save the environment in the long run,” explains Wong.
At the end of the PSA, we see that Josh, the one who practises a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle, is able to reduce his wastage to more than half that of Natalie’s. “That just shows how easy it is for us to save Mother Nature!” he enthuses, adding: “And it all begins with our daily practices that can be as simple as using a reusable bottle or bringing our own tupperware to cafes and restaurants.”
Although these habits may seem somewhat insignificant in comparison to other larger scale campaigns, for example, the ‘No Plastic Bag’ campaign in Selangor, Wong is quick to point out: “If everyone in the country did it, then this so called ‘insignificant’ act will eventually turn out to be a major one”.
If there’s one thing that he was pleasantly surprised to discover during the course of the production of this PSA, it’s the fact that a lot of people aren’t actually as ignorant about environmentally-friendly practices as he’d initially thought. “Many people actually accepted and acknowledged Josh’s environmentally-friendly implementations,” he confides.
As we near the end of our chat, Wong implores his audiences to appreciate the natural beauty that we have around us and not to destroy it. “Hopefully my PSA will be able to remind people that if you’ve found what makes you happy then preserve it as best as you can in whatever way possible. Because once it’s gone, it’ll be gone for good.”