Young filmmakers from 19 schools in Qatar will be competing in the first ever Junior Environmental Filmmaker Awards contest. Small teams of three and four kids from grades 7 to 9 will be making movies about water.The challenge will be to create new awareness about water in young filmmakers. It will be a challenge indeed since liberal values of expression about corruption or mismanagement is not widely accepted in the Gulf State emirates.
Also, should we be concerned that this contest is being sponsored by the ConocoPhillips Global Water Sustainability Centre (GWSC)? ConocoPhillips is an oil and gas company and its water center aims to develop more “sustainable” desalination technologies. That could be seen as an oxymoron in some circles. It’s like in Israel the environment institute at the IDC private college is funded by the Ofer Family, and headed by Idan Ofer known for drilling shipping, chemicals, mining, and a lavish lifestyle.
But without much awareness in the Middle East about environmental action, the void is usually filled by chemical companies like Dow, and oil and gas firms that fund and promote desalination technologies.
Despite the double message that may or may not be intended, the aim of the film competition is to help students learn about the importance of water in cities like Doha in Qatar. And we are rooting for these young directors and screenplay writers.
For those that grow from the experience, there are legions of film schools that can help them go further. The best are in film hubs, like in New York. See the New York Film Academy here. And our favorite viral film of the year No Woman, No Drive by Hisham Fageeh was made in New York.
The Middle East is one of the world’s most water-parched regions. And while rich nations in the United Arab Emirates and those in the State of Qatar can lean on desalination, the energy intensive process creates unspeakable amounts of greenhouse gases and pollution. Desalination in energy poor countries like Jordan isn’t a viable solution.
There are less energy-intensive ways to create and conserve water and we are hoping that the students and teachers competing in this challenge are picking up on good ideas and are reading Green Prophet so that eyes are wide open. That they understand that corporate “environmental” interests are sometimes but not always paid for with CSR money. And that what you learn at a company’s education center may not be the best education.
Afaf Mahmoud Jaber, a teacher at Al Wakra Independent Girls Elementary School told a local newspaper that she and her students have already learned a great deal about the importance of water conservation from visiting the water center, the GWSC.
She said: “We feel it is our duty to conserve water for the next generations in our beloved Qatar and we are looking forward to creating a video to help the cause.”
The top three films will be screened at an awards ceremony and then shown at a local 2014 Environment Fair.