© NFP/Filmwelt

How to Change the World
Canada/U.K. 2015

Opening 10 Sep 2015

Directed by: Jerry Rothwell
Writing credits: Jerry Rothwell
Principal actors: Bill Darnell, David Garrick, Bobbi Hunter, Emily Hunter, Will Jackson

“Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice.” (Greenpeace International at greenpeace.org.) This feature documentary takes a look back at the roots of Greenpeace, long before it became an internationally recognized activist organization that seeks to give the earth that voice to assure future generations can live in a peaceful and sustainable world.

A small group of friends in Vancouver, Canada, became activists when they were outraged by U.S. plans to test a nuclear bomb on Amchitka Island, one of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, less than 900 miles across the Bering Sea from Russia. In September 1971, they decided to sail a boat, which was renamed Greenpeace, into the nuclear test zone, to create what their unofficial leader Bob Hunter termed a “media mind bomb” or an image that would shock the world into action. Their story, and the numerous images that were captured for the media, create a fascinating film about how a handful of committed, rather disorganized and very different people came together against a powerful government. Sixteen-millimeter film footage highlights the stormy days sailing to Amchitka, along with the even stormier confrontations among the crew. Although the nuclear test is delayed but finally occurs, the group garnered huge support and their actions made an impact on the U.S. nuclear test program. They follow up their initial success with a campaign against commercial whaling. Hunter, as the reluctant leader again, takes to the seas with thirteen other activists to find Russian whalers off the northern coast of California. The footage of brutally slaughtered whales, vivid red blood soaked seas, and a lethal harpoon shot barely missing Paul Watson created a media cluster bomb which eventually spawned the Save the Whales movement. 

How the group progresses into an international organization is chronicled in film, photos and present day interviews with participants like Watson, David Garrick, Will Jackson, Rod Marining and others. Perhaps just a bit too much detail on personality clashes and ideological divides, but overall, the documentary depicts in entertaining and frustrating detail just how haphazard the founding of Greenpeace International actually was. Despite the numerous and sometimes seemingly insurmountable difficulties, the film shows how taking group action based on strong belief really can change the world. (Mary Nyiri) (Mary Nyiri)

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