Hope: Environmental Full Frame Films

April in Durham means Full Frame. Earlier on in the month, I had the opportunity to attend the documentary film festival and call the Carolina Theater my second home for the weekend. Hundreds of filmmakers, producers, artists, photographers, and film lovers flock to the Durham Convention Center and Theater for a weekend of documentaries. From quirky shorts to dramatic investigations to heartfelt profiles, the festival showcases all genres. But two stood out this year– Rafea: Solar Mama and Inventing Tomorrow. 

Diving into the competitive realm of high school science fairs, Inventing Tomorrow brought a level of optimism to the topic of climate change through what else?–teenagers. Throughout the documentary, we are introduced to some of the contestants and revolutionary ideas they bring with them.

Meet Shofi. She lives on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where much of the population relies on tin mining for income. However, illegal offshore mining is unregulated and overlooked and leads to water pollution, fish kills, and coral die-off. So in an effort to protect her home coast, she creates a low-cost filter to remove lead from the output produced by the dredging process.

Take Sahithi. She calls Bangalore home, but running beside her street is a lake that has now burst into flames twice due to toxic waste, sewage, and run-off. Thus, Sahithi created a crowdsourced app to inform locals of the air and water quality levels in the region.

Introduce Jared. At just fifteen, he recognized the patterns of debris from hurricanes hitting his home state of Hawaii and the resulting arsenic being dumped into a local pond. Measuring soil samples in which the arsenic has bled into, Jared developed a system to track the arsenic in neighborhood soils.

Despite all being under 18 and having no formal scientific training, the students in Inventing Tomorrow provided something commonly lacking in the dialogue surrounded climate change– hope.

The same could be said about Rafea. Living in a barren dry village in Jordan, Rafea followed the normal life trajectory of a Jordanian women–get married and take care of the children. However, with the opportunity to attend Barefoot College, Rafea entirely shifted her path towards a career, towards being a solar engineer. Traveling to India, Rafea joined other women from around the world to spend six months learning the ins and outs of circuits and switches. Completing her training, she brought such knowledge back to her village to teach other women.

So if in need of a little hope, inspiration, or simple entertainment, check out Rafea: Solar Mama and Inventing Tomorrow. They won’t disappoint.