Putting First Nations stories at the forefront, Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA) is premiering a collection of short films as part of their Summer of Change program.

The Elders & the Earth shorts focus on topics like climate change, the destruction of the Peruvian rainforest, Native American water rituals and tree plantations, just to name a few.

“I think the main thing about the package is that it’s really positive in the way that it platforms people doing really good work in their communities, which is something across the whole program that we’re really trying to focus on this year,” said EFFA Program Director Nathan Senn about the collection’s curation.

Read on for NIT’s review of each short in the collection.


Voices on the Road (2019)
Bethan John and Eilidh Munro, UK

“If we don’t conserve, where will our children live?”

Voices on the Road (2019) compares three Indigenous communities in Manu, a remote region of the Peruvian Amazon and one of the world’s richest ecosystems.

The Shintuya, Shipetiari and Diamante Native Communities exist between two protected areas of the rainforest. A road which connects all three rainforest communities to the outside world has been in its embryonic stages since the 1950s.

Filmmakers Bethan John and Eilidh Munro visit these three rainforest communities to gain insight into the negative impacts of the road, and the positive impact it could have on the Diamante Native Community in particular, which feels forgotten by its own government.

It is a heartbreaking and important discussion about the effects of deforestation, conservation, and poverty.


Nibi Walk (2019)
Keely Kernan, USA

“What would happen if we all treated our rivers and streams as though they are the arteries of the earth? How would we take care of it then?”

Nibi Walk (2019) is the shortest of the shorts. In four minutes, it follows Water Woman and Anishinaabe Elder, Sharon Day, who proudly speaks of her people’s river and how it is her privilege to embark on these long-distance water walks.

It’s Ms Day’s cultural duty to teach other women to value water. Photo supplied.

It is Ms Day’s familial duty to teach all the women who come after her about their responsibility to value water as a living entity.

Nibi Walk is an inspiring spiritual snapshot into a very personal responsibility that Ms Day upholds with gumption.

Ms Day has led dozens of long distance Nibi Walks and extended ceremonies to heal and honour the element of water. She has walked the entirety of the Mississippi River, Ohio River, the Missouri River, the Great Lakes, as well as several tributaries, creeks, and streams.


Swimming Yesterday (2020)
Damian Kane, Australia

“Like your body – you can take your pulse in many places. This place here – the fish traps of the heart. The water runs through it as blood runs through the heart.”

Damian Kane’s Swimming Yesterday is set in Brewarrina, NSW, which is home to the oldest man-made structure in the world: the fish traps, known as Ngunnhu in the local language. These ancient fish traps can still be seen in the Darling River today.

“The film documents the cultural and spiritual significance [the traps have] … to the Ngemba Wayilwan people and the history of those monuments, the way that they relate to it, the influence of that land for them and their fight to preserve it from destruction and governmental interference,” Senn said.

Drone footage lovers will appreciate Swimming Yesterday – the sweeping landscape shots from above are breathtaking.

Haraldur Thrastarson’s exceptional sound design and mixing also gives the short a heavily nostalgic and homely feel. The audio feels crisp and clear. With powerful narration by Brad Steadman, Swimming Yesterday is exceptionally moving.


7 Hectares Back (2019)
Dorota and Robert Migas-Mazur, Poland

“I dedicate this forest to these children and the entire society.”

In 7 Hectares Back, Dorota and Robert Migas-Mazur share the story of Omar Tello, who has dedicated his life to restoring a small part of Ecuador’s Amazonian rainforest. He has spent four decades saving native plants from being destroyed by deforestation.

Omar Tello has dedicated his life to restoring rainforest. Photo supplied.

7 Hectares Back gives a rare glimpse into a part of the world that we don’t often see. Tello, a former bank accountant, has dedicated his life to preserve nature and in turn, has created his own ecosystem.

All his efforts are to preserve the natural environment. He dedicates the forest he has created to his children, and to his children’s children. With a gorgeous soundscape of music and nature, 7 Hectares Back is a remarkable short.


To Keep as One (2020)
Katrina Basile, USA

“If only there was no erosion or permafrost melting, [or] flooding, we would be here for their rest of our lives.”

2019 was Alaska’s hottest year on record.

There are at least 38 Alaskan villages threatened by flooding, erosion and permafrost melt.

With a lack of funding, the Alaskan town of Newtok has only been able to relocate a third of their community. To Keep as One follows Newtok resident Albertina Charles, as we meet her and her family members who will be separated for up to three years because of this relocation.

With no comprehensive relocation program enacted by the settler government to assist, the tight-knit community of Newtok must take their future into their own hands.

Accompanied by a dreamlike, moving soundscape, To Keep as One is utterly heartbreaking, but one to watch.

To learn more, donate, or to enact some change visit: relocatenewtok.org.


The Man of the Trees (2018)
Andrea Trivero, Italy

“My name is Balimà Daniel, I was born in Tenkodogo and I am 67-years-old. I started this job 50 years ago. I have been a farmer and a nurseryman since I was 17-years-old and I have sown more than a million trees.”

Andrea Trivero’s The Man of the Trees is incredibly inspiring. Daniel Balimà fought and overcame polio as a child and has since spent 50 years planting approximately one million trees, and counting, in Burkina Faso.

He worked hard and learnt French, despite never going to school. There were no schools closeby to his home, and he wasn’t able to walk. Balimà’s story is one that embodies the fierce resilience of First Nations peoples worldwide.

Daniel Balimà has planted one million trees and counting. Photo supplied.

With a gorgeous soundscape by Andrew Camboni and music by Balake Sissoko, there is a really poignant feel throughout the entirety of the film. The Man of the Trees is deserving of a feature film, rather than a short.

The Elders & the Earth shorts are available now on the EFFA website here until February 4, 2021.

By Simi West