Documentary film How to Save the World examines the early days of Greenpeace

A Russian whaling ship towers over protesting members of Greenpeace.

A Russian whaling ship towers over protesting members of Greenpeace.

 

RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival, takes place in November. But outside of that framework, RIDM’s Docville series presents a film at Excentris on the last Thursday of the month.

The selection for May, How To Change the World looks at the early days of Greenpeace. The non-governmental environmental organization now has branches in 41 countries, but it got its start in Vancouver, B.C., back in the 1970s.

Long before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, smart phones, and widespread access to the World Wide Web, Greenpeace activists were able to galvanize the public against the testing of nuclear weapons, and the killing of whales and baby seals. They famously vowed to place themselves between the harpoons of fishermen and the whales those fishermen were hunting. Look at the trailer below, to see how vulnerable the Greenpeace members were, bobbing on the ocean waves in their small, inflatable boats while huge whaling ships loomed over them.

How To Change the World is a Canada-U.K. co-production, directed by Jerry Rothwell. Rothwell was blessed with access to many hours of original 16 mm footage that had been shot by cinematographer Ron Precious near the beginning of his career. In an interview with IndieWire, Precious says: “We got some great images for sure, like [Greenpeace co-founder] Paul Watson on the back of a dead whale. These are images that become iconic. For me, they’re some of my proudest moments. My entire career in film, nothing tops that. What gave me the most satisfaction was the days doing that work with Greenpeace.”

Canadian hippie journalists, photographers, musicians, scientists, and U.S. draft dodgers were among the people who created Greenpeace.

Canadian hippie journalists, photographers, musicians, scientists, and U.S. draft dodgers were among the people who created Greenpeace.

In his Director’s Notes, Rothwell writes: “The group had a prescient understanding of the power of media, knowing that capturing the perfect image was the most powerful weapon of all. But their footage richly evokes not only the dramatic actions they undertook, but their friendships and conflicts, dilemmas and decisions – a sometimes crazy mix of psychedelia and politics, science and theatre.”

In addition to dealing with dramatic public actions by Greenpeace, the film goes behind the scenes to document the internal workings of the group and disagreements and power struggles between three of the founders Paul Watson, Patrick Moore and Bob Hunter.

The film’s soundtrack includes music from Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat and Country Joe and the Fish.

How To Change the World had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and has been shown at many other festivals since then, including Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival, DOXA in Vancouver, theTrue/False Film Fest in Columbia, Mo., and the EcoFilm Festival in Portland, Ore. Future screenings will take place in San Francisco, Sheffield, England, Sydney and Canberra, Australia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Oakville, Ontario.

Embed from Getty Images

Will Jackson, left, Bous De Jong, Bobbi Hunter, Al Morrow, director Jerry Rothwell, John Murray, Rex Wyler and Emily Hunter at How To Change The World premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Sundance)

 

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Directed by Jerry Rothwell. Canada/United Kingdom. 2015. 112 min. In the original English.
Thursday, May 28, 8 p.m., Cinéma Excentris, 3536 St Laurent Blvd.

Tickets can be bought online.

For more information, visit the How to Change the World Facebook page, or the How to Change the World web site.

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