To celebrate Earth Day, Red Room hosted a gathering at the Red Room Rendezvous on April 24th. Filmmakers Tim Gorski, Lin You-xue, Nick Vaky and Francesca Chang presented their films and projects while answering questions and discussing ideas from the audience.
Do you love elephants? Who doesn’t! Animal-rights activist Tim Gorski presented an adventure-filled and emotionally-touching behind-the-scenes of his project “Bonding With Giants”. He and four Chinese students embarked on a journey to Kenya to come face-to-face with majestic elephants and the people that protect them. He and his team infiltrated the violent and dangerous world of poaching to spread the awareness of the horrific impact the ivory trade was having on elephants. It was heart-wrenching to see the team challenged with having to capture intense and shocking moments where elephants were brutally murdered. “Behind-the-scenes” captures the deeply emotional and vulnerable moments the cast experienced, connecting the audience with the endangered elephants. Gorski also presented his project on captive elephants in Thailand, which brought the audience to tears. I imagined my classmates watching this film, and gasping at treatment of these intelligent, emotional and sensitive animals. Gorski’s films reach young people on a deep and emotional level, causing them to contemplate their actions, whether it’s riding elephants or eating meat, or motivating them to take actions to eliminate the ivory trade and circus industries.
Have you ever been astounded by the number of discarded cigarette buds on the ground? Nick Vacky, a writer, director, and editor was, and decided to do something about it. He made an engaging film capturing the ways these cigarette buds live with us. He traveled to many different countries, documenting the unpleasant and everlasting buds he encountered almost everywhere he went; no matter if it was the ocean-facing cliffs, famous tourist destinations or secluded alleyways in Europe… The film stimulated debate and discussion of biodegrable cigarette buds, and the cigarette industry generally, and its harmful impact on health and the environment. Another reason to refrain from taking up smoking!
Do you know how hard it is to get a beach photo, without rubbish? Lin You-xue’s film, “Landscape of Rubbish”, tells the story of how trash would always appear in his scenic photos even though he tried his best to avoid them. Lin began as a photographer with the desire of capturing the beauty of Taiwan’s coasts. But eventually, he realized that trash was an unavoidable reality and started to incorporate it into his art, to show the impact our trash was having on the coastal environment. “Landscape of Rubbish” also features Liina Klauss, a German artist who reimagines beautiful artworks from beach rubbish. You-xue’s film takes the audience through a journey of appreciation for the objects we would consider “disgusting” or “gross” and allows us to find a new appreciation for them. Watching this film through a teenager’s lens, I immediately thought of Instagram. The bright colors, eye-catching and mesmerizing arrangement of the trash are all the perfect ingredients for an “aesthetic instagram” recipe: teens showing the world they are conscious of littering or climate change while still making their feed picture-perfect and “aesthetic”. This could trend!
Do you wonder what happens to discarded food waste? Francesca Chang, a retired lawyer, introduced an alternative way of decomposing organic waste like leftover food. She presented a detailed article and vlog-style video of an ecological farm in Chiayi that raises black soldier flies on organic waste. She brought us a close look at the hydroponics and aquaponics, while telling the story of how a Taiwanese farmer discovered the fly. The audience was intrigued by this local story, and we discussed composting and potential invasiveness of this fly species. When I attended a Taiwanese high school, lunch leftovers were dumped into a bucket. We all presumed “it’s for the pigs”. But Chang’s presentation provided a more complex story: even though diverting food waste to pig feed may seem efficient, it can also harm the pigs. The soldier fly seems like a good alternative, and I was glad to see Chang spreading awareness.
I hope to see more young people at the next Earth Day Event at the Red Room. I come from a generation of social media addicts, where “performative activism” too often substitutes for the real thing. Too many aspiring influencers post something related to climate change or animal conservation because it looks pretty or demonstrates how much they “care: It is good to see films and debates with the directors that offer a real impact, and incentivize young people to find genuine ways to create a better planet and society.