Amsterdam Debates Environmental Sustainability at GreenDoc Film Festival

Last weekend, the first edition of the GreenDoc Film Festival took place in Amsterdam. Dozens gathered at De Ceuvel, a sustainable urban complex in the North of the city, for a weekend of movie screenings focusing on environmental issues.

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Logo of the GreenDoc Film Festival, that took place last weekend at De Ceuvel sustainable urban
complex in Amsterdam North. Courtesy of The Amsterdammer

The screening program was open to all, and was complemented by workshops, yoga classes, a food waste market and live music, with the aim of making tangible connections between attendees’ personal experience and the stories portrayed on screen. The movie choice was variegated, ranging from new works like Thank You For The Rain (Julia Dahr and Kisilu Musya, 2017), showing the disastrous effects of climate change on a Kenyan village, to classics like Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio, 1982), a mute, visual tone poem depicting the violence of human impact on nature.

Daisy Crooke, 25, came from the UK to do a Master in Art and Society at Utrecht University. After a thesis on film festivals and an internship at De Ceuvel in programming of cultural events, she wanted to organize an event that combined her two passions: movies and sustainability. From there came the inspiration to organize the GreenDoc Film Festival. “I wanted to explore the power of films to raise awareness about fundamental topics like the environment,” said Crooke. “Nowadays, the awareness about environment is increasing, but it is still not enough.” Reflecting on serious issues while having fun is always a good idea. “It was nice to combine engaged discussions with a pleasant thing like watching movies.” Moreover, Crooke insisted on combining screenings with workshops and audience conversations, in which attendees had a more active role. “I thought that would increase the impact of movies on people’s awareness,” she explained.

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Daisy Crooke, 25, organizer of the GreenDoc Film Festival, presents the screening of Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) on Sunday evening. Koyaanisqatsi
is a mute, visual tone poem depicting the violence of human impact on nature.
Valeria Mongelli / The Amsterdammer

The mission seemed to be accomplished. Mexican Sergio Galaz, 31, was extremely touched by the vision of Koyaanisqatsi. “It gave me the urge to do something concrete for the environment,” said Galaz. “We live in a very critical historical moment, in which the disconnection between humanity and environment is getting bigger and bigger. If we continue in this direction, the human species is going to disappear.” Marlene Murillo Rojas, 31-year-old engineer from Costa Rica, agreed with him. “Our current production system is unsustainable. We should start thinking more on the consequences of our daily, consumerist habits.” Where to start changing things, then? “We should start from our simplest daily habits,” observed Murillo Rojas. “From stopping to consume 1 kg of plastic per person per day, for example. For a long time, we have been told that national policies led world to this point. Still, this is hard to realize, as we are such self-centered beings. Instead of focusing on macro-concepts, we should start thinking more on our daily tasks.” No place is better than De Ceuvel to reflect on what everyone, within his small range of action, can concretely do for the environment.

De Ceuvel: A sustainable urban oasis arisen from the ruins of industrial pollution

De Ceuvel is an award-winning, sustainable planned workplace for creative and social enterprises, fronting the river IJ in Amsterdam North. It was built on a shipyard in Buiksloterham former industrial neighborhood, which had its glorious days in the past century and remained abandoned afterwards. In 2012, the land was secured for a 10-year lease from the Municipality of Amsterdam after a group of architects won a tender to turn the site into a regenerative urban oasis.

The former industrial plot is now home to a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and artists, who altogether contributed to building Amsterdam’s first circular office park. The complex, one of the most unique urban experiments in Europe, hosts creative workspaces, a cultural venue, a sustainable café, spaces to rent, and a floating bed & breakfast. Old houseboats have been placed on heavily polluted soil, the workspaces have been fitted with clean technologies and it has all been connected by a winding jetty. Around the houseboats, phyto-remediating plants work to clean the soil. De Ceuvel is a playground for sustainable technologies, as energy self-sufficient as possible, where a collective of creative minds works together to find innovative ways of processing waste. Over there, environmental sustainability seems to be a bit more concrete than a simple word.

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On Sunday afternoon, the GreenDoc Film Festival hosted a food waste market organized by the
foodwaste-fighting collective Guerilla Kitchen. Courtesy of The Amsterdammer

  • Reporter (Spring 2018)
  • Reporter (Fall 2018)
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