While most films of the 1980s were sponsored, the following decade and the beginning of the next saw more engaged and personal documentaries being made.
Engaged and Personal Filmmaking
During the 1990s and 2000s, NFB documentaries on environmental themes became more activist. Filmmakers wanted to make films of opposition – projects that weren’t afraid to take sides, favouring a particular cause or idea. These films focus on influential people with strong personalities, and side with lobby groups made up of well-organized activists or ordinary citizens. They also tend to be more personal films, with the directors often a part of the stories they are telling.
Battle for the Trees
Coastal British Columbia is home to old-growth forest being clearcut at an accelerating rate. Released in 1993, Battle for the Trees (view an excerpt) was co-produced by the NFB, Sarus Productions and the UK-based Otmoor Productions, and examines the fate of old-growth forest on the British Columbia coast. If nothing is done to stop clearcutting, the forest will disappear. Director John Edginton follows activists who have taken it on themselves to defend these centuries-old forests. The result is a socially engaged documentary that sides with those fighting to protect the forest – defending it against repeated incursions from the forest industry.
A Battle to the End
Battle for the Trees (view an excerpt) is a record of combat. The film repeatedly uses military metaphors, telling the story of a battle between defenders of the forest and the forest industry – a battle to the bitter end, between commercial interests and the democratic process. The soldiers in this war are battalions of scientists, environmentalists, forestry workers, members of Aboriginal communities and ordinary citizens. Their weapons range from multi-million dollar public relations campaigns to individual acts of civil disobedience. The war is fought on several fronts: in the boardrooms of large corporations, in legislative assemblies, on the streets and in the forest itself. The stakes are high: old-growth trees and their survival.