The Rise of Eco-Activism in Film

Updated: Nov 15, 2021


Erin Brokovich (2000)

While environmental filmmaking sprouted in the fifties and sixties, it wasn’t until the 21st century that eco-activism spread like wildfire across the filmmaking landscape. The turn of the millennium marked a surge in films tackling environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, and corporate violations of ecological safety standards.


According to FilmFreeway, more than 300 environmental film festivals were established over the past 21 years. Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that the majority of those festivals focus on documentary films. The boom in eco-activism has stimulated public interest in environmental films, especially documentaries. The critical nature of environmental themes infuses documentary filmmaking with potency and popularity surpassing that of its fictional counterpart.


While the award-winning Erin Brokovich (2000) ushered the new era of environmentalism on film, documentaries like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2014) garnered international acclaim and served as an impetus in green movements all around the world.


Okja (2017)

With the rise of sustainability initiatives and lifestyle changes such as veganism, major production studios are integrating, and possibly capitalising on, eco-activism in their films. Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (2017), for example, incorporates fantastical characters that are grounded in the very real and inhumane meat industry. The film competed for the Palme d’Or - a first for a Netflix

production - and was listed among the top 10 most influential films of the decade inThe New York Times.


The dynamic between real life issues and cinema plays a key role in environmental filmmaking, both narrative fiction and documentary. In honour of this year’s Great Big Green Week, Mor Media Charity has curated a selection of films to showcase the evolution of eco-activism throughout the 21st century. Fusing fiction and documentary, the selection presents a wide range of environmental issues through the lens of filmmaking.


Audiences can take a deeper look at the growth of environmental films, from incisively informative documentaries like Netflix’s Virunga(2014)and Sundance winner Chasing Coral (2017) to Oscar-nominated indies like Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) and First Reformed

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