Sunday, July 16, 2017

IMAX Unveils Student-Made Documentaries That Explore Pressing Environmental Challenges

From our friends at IMAX...

Films Highlight How High School Students Perceive Nation’s Efforts to Address Issues Important to Them

IMAX Corp. released five thought-provoking documentaries as part of its In Focus program, which cultivates young filmmakers and provides them an opportunity to tell compelling stories that promote change through film. Today’s release of the eight-minute documentaries - available on IMAX’s and UN Environment’s websites - coincides with the United Nations’ World Environment Day, the largest annual event for global actions to protect the environment.

The student documentaries strive to educate audiences on a host of topics, including wildlife protection, ecological threats, and air and water pollution. Each documentary was produced under the auspices of IMAX In Focus to showcase the work of young filmmakers and help them use the power of film to entertain, educate and inspire actions to improve and protect the planet. Launched in October as part of an IMAX-UN Environment partnership, In Focus is a component of IMAX Big Picture, a comprehensive corporate social responsibility effort to drive awareness of environmental and societal issues.

“As a longtime participant in filmed entertainment, IMAX has an obligation to ensure the industry remains strong for decades to come,” said IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond. “Part of that commitment includes cultivating the next generation of filmmakers. In Focus formalizes our efforts to help young filmmakers unlock their innate creativity and open their eyes to the power of storytelling."

“We are so proud of the work created by these budding filmmakers, which shines a light on important environmental issues as well as their own creative abilities,” said Gelfond. “For well over a century, film has been an influential tool, bridging cultural understanding across borders. As a result of this effort, these young artists see first-hand how this medium can be used to express their ideas and raise awareness of the issues they’re passionate about.”

At last year’s unveiling of In Focus, IMAX awarded $5,000 individual grants to four high school film programs and a non-profit workshop selected by the All-American High School Film Festival. Each film program was asked to produce an eight-minute and a four-minute documentary, as well as related social media content, including Instagram and Snapchat posts. The topics covered in the films needed to align with one of three sustainable development goals established by the UN in 2015:

Climate action - efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions which scientists believe is a factor in changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Life below water - efforts to conserve and sustainably use the planet’s oceans, seas, and marine resources.

Life on land - efforts to sustainably manage forests, and halt and reverse land degradation.

“It was a pleasure working with IMAX to bring this program to life and encourage these young filmmakers to create compelling content that can effect change,” said AAHSFF Executive Director Tom Oliva. “The In Focus program aligns seamlessly with what we strive to achieve - cultivating young filmmakers and recognizing their talented work.”

“The release of these documentaries on World Environment Day is a fitting testament to the importance of empowering our youth to use their voices to drive change for a better tomorrow,” said UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim. “We support IMAX’s commitment to helping young filmmakers share these stories with a larger audience, hopefully resulting in changes that create a healthier environment.”

The UN’s 17 sustainable development goals - adopted in 2015 - range from eradicating poverty, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment to ensuring universal access to clean water, modern energy and quality education.

The following are summaries of the five documentaries:

On the Backs of Salmon
Ballard High School, Seattle
The students tell their story through the lens of the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992, which authorized the removal of two huge dams, built in 1911, that had decimated the salmon population. That led to one of the most successful environmental efforts ever undertaken, restoring the local ecosystem of Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula.

• Construction planning for the Elwha River dams - built to provide hydroelectric power - didn’t incorporate passages for salmon to get upstream to spawning areas. As a result, the King Salmon population depleted rapidly, decimating a critical food and economic source.

• On-camera interviews include experts and representatives of NOAA Fisheries, Olympic National Park (of the National Parks Service), the Coastal Watershed Institute, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. Tribal council member Russ Hepfer explains the region’s long dependence on salmon, altering area lore that settlers once could walk across streams on the backs of fish. “This place was created on the backs of salmon.”

The Air We Breathe
Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington, DC
The students explore the health dangers posed by ozone pollution, produced by engine exhaust, in Washington, DC. The filmmakers use congested roads, heavy air traffic and commuter rail to illustrate the area’s buzz of activity and flow of people who live or work in the metro area. (Note: The UN plans to use the documentary as part of its “Breathe Life” initiative.)

• The film encapsulates the positive impact of the Clean Air Act of 1963 and the 1970 amendment that created the EPA and established federal air standards. On-camera interviews include experts and officials of the NOAA and EPA, and environmental scientists.

Beyond the River of Grass
University School of Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The filmmakers explore the uniqueness of Florida’s Everglades and the importance of the Everglades Restoration Project (being studied since 2000.) The Everglades’ Lake Okeechobee provides drinking water to 8 million Floridians. With the rising pollution, water quality alerts are increasingly common.

• This piece focuses on concerns over the impact of urban growth, surging water demand, pollutants, and canals on the Everglades’ natural flow of water and local plant and wildlife species.

• Three steps towards a solution are advocated: Water conservation, better water management, and controlled urban growth.

• On-camera interviews include environmental scientists and a Broward County state senator.

Bee Conscious
Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego
Illustrates the critical role of the honeybee in sustaining human life.

• According to one expert, if honeybees weren’t around to pollinate fruit and vegetable plantings, the human race would be extinct in five years.

• Fertilizers, pesticides and habitat loss are impinging honeybee population growth.  In addition, a mysterious malady called “Colony Collapse Disorder,” where worker bees are abandoning queens, is cutting the population.

• On-camera interviews include bee- and hive-removal experts, scientists and a post-doctoral fellow studying the ecological impact of honeybees.

Generation Zero Explores: Drinking Water
Mythic Bridge Youth Filmmaking Workshops, New York City
The filmmakers explore the history of New York City’s tap water in contrast to other areas in the U.S. where lack of access to clean water is a critical issue.

• The film highlights the foresight of city officials to build two massive aqueducts that deliver drinking water from watersheds in the Catskill Mountains to city residents and businesses.

• In addition, it explores the economic and environmental rationale for municipalities to do whatever it takes to expand public water availability; tap water, on average, costs just a penny a gallon, vs. anywhere from $1-$3 for a single bottled water.

• The filmmakers contrast NYC’s situation with the struggles of tribal communities near Bismarck, N.D., that recently lost the legal battle to reroute the North Dakota Access Pipeline; delivery of Canadian shale oil will run through 30 miles of watershed in tribal areas.

About IMAX Corporation:
IMAX, an innovator in entertainment technology, combines proprietary software, architecture and equipment to create experiences that take you beyond the edge of your seat to a world you’ve never imagined. Top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and, as such, IMAX’s network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe.

IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Dublin, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. As of March 31, 2017, there were 1,226 IMAX theatres (1,121 commercial multiplexes, 14 commercial destinations and 91 institutions) in 75 countries. On Oct. 8, 2015, shares of IMAX China, a subsidiary of IMAX Corp., began trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock code “HK.1970.”

IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience®, The IMAX Experience®, IMAX Is Believing® and IMAX nXos® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the Company can be found at You may also connect with IMAX on Facebook (, Twitter ( and YouTube (

About UN Environment:
UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook at and Twitter at

About All American High School Film Festival:
The All American High School Film Festival is the premiere destination for talented high school filmmakers and media arts enthusiasts from around the world. Our mission is to provide immersive education with a profound impact, connecting the filmmakers of the future with the rewards, respect and recognition they deserve.

Each year, in the heart of New York City, we present the world’s largest high school film festival. We offer a grand stage for the next generation of talented filmmakers where they can: screen their amazing creations, learn from top industry professionals, connect with the latest technology, explore myriad higher education opportunities, receive scholarships and technology prizes, and, perhaps most importantly, create a community of shared passions and lifelong relationships.

We believe in the voices of our youth.

We invest in the stories they have to tell.

We empower young artists to share their stories and transform their world through digital media.