A Few Brave People by Turkish director Rüya Arzu Köksal won the Golden Deer Award for Best Feature Film at the inaugural Abu Dhabi International Environmental Film Festival (ADIEFF) last Thursday night.
Recognized alongside five other nature-themed films at the closing green carpet ceremony, the documentary highlights the challenges faced by people living in Çağlayan, İkizdere and Senoz in the Black Sea region of Turkey, where government is enabling private companies to develop a slew of energy-generating hydroelectric plants. The film was picked from a crowd of 50 films from 32 nations.
Here’s an excerpt about A Few Brave People from the official website:
They cannot make sense of the fact that their rivers -a lifeline, teacher and inspiration- are to be rented out to private companies to exploit for the next 49 years. The authorities tell them that this is a must, necessary for Turkey’s development and energy independence. Then, they sign the rivers off, and immediately begin construction in Şenöz. Trees are cut off, massive water pipes are laid, and as the river goes quiet, it is as if the locals in Şenöz slowly begin to expire. In İkizdere, there are those who believe the dams will mean more employment, and then, there are those who are determined to resist this brutal intervention to their lives. Aware of what happened in Şenöz and İkizdere, people in Çağlayan begin a determined campaign against the state and its corporations. This film follows a few brave people who decide to struggle not only for their own sakes, but also for generations to come over the course of 3 years.
This is a common, but rarely publicized theme throughout the region (alas, the world.) But let me do an overview of three kinds of environmental problems in the Middle East:
Wealthy countries in the region – Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi – have had so much money, they kind of took a generation off. Their grandparents and parents had all suffered, so they were allowed to indulge their oil riches.
Water and energy have been subsidized, creating no awareness of its true value, and many kids stopped dreaming since they were either going to be engineers (and work for the oil industry) or doctors. This generated apathy and a stunning lack of earthly connection.
But it’s wake up time now and leaders across the Gulf are trying to undo this damage. They realize the seriousness of climate change, desertification, food insecurity, water, water, precious little water.
Poorer or less developed countries, like Egypt, which should technically be rich, and Lebanon, are inundated with so many environmental problems, they don’t even know where to start. And the hotter it gets, the worse it gets.
Rivers strewn with animal carcasses, debris, human waste, aluminum cans, plastic, and the dumpsters on every single corner absolutely overflowing with trash. This problem doesn’t even pretend to be the least bit under control.
Lastly, Israel and Turkey are both a bit more European, but neither has Saudi’s energy wealth, so both will do whatever it takes – cut, grind, scrape, dig, bulldoze, poison, lie – to become more energy independent. Kind of like America. Hence the above scenario in Turkey, where the government is turning on its own people, is very unlikely to happen in Abu Dhabi.
ADIEFF was established to make Emiratis, and maybe all Arabs and expatriates, aware of issues such as those listed above since the nation’s leadership considers the medium to be the most effective at rousing a somnabulant populace.
Mohammad Monir, executive president of the festival, told Gulf News they received 170 entries from 42 nations, just under one third of which were selected for screening at the Abu Dhabi Theater throughout the six day festival.
“The perspective is the Earth is the only planet that harbours life and we cannot afford losing it,” said Monir. “Our shared destiny imposes huge responsibilities on us to protect our planet.”
Green Water won the Golden Deer award for the best film from the United Arab Emirates.