Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Exposes galore in NZ's Hot Air - and now Hot Air 2 needed for Pacific?

Raging fires around Athens, a still from the devastating Alister Barry climate change film Hot Air
by photographer Nikos Pilos.
IN THE wrap-up session of the Pacific Journalism Review 20th anniversary conference at the weekend, independent film maker Alister Barry was beaming.

"I've never had such a tremendous reception for the film," he admitted to Café Pacific. He was blown away by the tremendously engaged and enthusiastic response of a packed audience. Many said his climate change film Hot Air, premiered at the NZ International Film Festival in July, was inspirational.

But what needs to be done? The Vanguard Films investigation reveals in a devastating way how politicians are shackled when trying to confront such a critical global challenge as climate change. It also exposes the weaknesses of the NZ democratic system.

The lively discussion at AUT University centred on what strategies need to be followed. Some called for another documentary about climate change in the Pacific. A graduating student journalist from AUT was on hand to report the discussion.

By Emilia Mazza for the Pacific Media Centre and Pacific Scoop  

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty has called for more “rigorous documentation” on climate change in the Pacific while praising Alister Barry’s documentary Hot Air at a weekend public screening.

While describing the film about New Zealand climate change politics as “remarkable and important”, she jokingly asked if the director was going to consider making Hot Air 2 to focus on the Pacific.

Climate change film Hot Air director Alister Barry and Cap Bocage’s
Jim Marbrook at the Pacific Journalism Review conference
at the weekend. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
“The story has moved along since the Emissions Trading Scheme,” Delahunty said, adding that the story needed to be continued.

“We need your rigorous documentation to include the Pacific.

“I feel as if the Pacific is where climate change is being felt, and most New Zealanders in their xenophobic focus on the West haven’t understood what is actually happening in their own ocean.”

Pacific Island nations were feeling first-hand the effects of climate change.

The film was screened at the PJR2014 conference “Political journalism in the Asia-Pacific” that ended at the weekend.

Climate change politics
The 90-minute documentary by Barry and Abi King-Jones takes an in-depth look at New Zealand’s history of climate change politics from 1988 to 2013.

The film, which premiered at the NZ International Film Festival earlier in the year, serves as a thoroughly researched artefact that shows, as director and producer says, “the shortcomings of social democratic process”.

Dr Chris Nash, professor of journalism at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said many considered the Pacific as the “canary in the mine” and it was a warning to the international community.

He described the film “journalism as research” and a great note for the conference to end on in that it pulled together “in a very strong and forceful way, the themes of what it means to be a journalist in a university context – which the Pacific Media Centre exemplifies”.

Professor Nash said the quality of the work would have earned a doctorate in Australia.

He noted Barry’s earlier comment that the most expensive part of making the film was paying for access rights to archival footage.

“Independent documentary makers in Australia these days would not tend to make that sort of documentary,” he said, because of the costs involved.

A documentary like Barry’s would probably only be made with state broadcaster backing and screened on ABC’s long form current affairs programme Four Corners.

Documentary space
Professor Nash asked Barry if any equivalent to Four Corners existed in New Zealand, highlighting the issue of an increasingly commercialised media space.

Barry said that there had been space on Maori Television for documentaries for a while but that this channel had a limited number of viewers, and audience numbers might only be as many as 10,000 to 15,000 viewers.

“There isn’t any system at the moment for films like this,” he said.

Support for the film initially came from the New Zealand Film Commission which gave Barry $5000 for development. He was knocked back when he applied for a second round of funding.

He said television station executives did not show any real interest in picking up the film for screening, citing the potential for low ratings and issues with the documentary’s length – 90 minutes – as the main factors.

“There are a few people like me who continue to try and make these type of traditional style of documentaries but, he says, we are having trouble getting to audiences.”

Several short documentaries by AUT journalism, television and screen writing students – highlights of the annual Flavourz in-house “diversity” festival – were also screened before PMC Advisory Board chair Isabella Rasch closed the three-day conference.

Emilia Mazza is a graduating Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies journalist at AUT.
The trailer for the climate change film Hot Air by director Alister Barry.

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