Wild Things, a feature documentary screening as part of the Adelaide Film Festival, chronicles a year on the front-lines of the climate movement in Australia. This week, Glam Adelaide sat down with the film’s director, Sally Ingleton, to discuss her new film, climate change, logging, censorship, and much more.
Q. What drew you to the stories of these activists?
A. I’ve been making documentaries for probably over thirty five years, and I’ve made them in all sorts of genres and subject matters from arts to people-based to natural history to science. But I have got a real passion for telling environment stories.
There were a lot of different ways that I could have told the story. In the end I decided to really focus on people that were going to the front line of different campaigns. I chose a selection of campaigns that all would have a kind of a connection with climate action. It was really important for me to look at what people were doing to protect forests. And it seemed like Tasmania was the most active in that in that area.
From late 2018, the energy that is being galvanised by young people, actively involved in the school strike movement, was just infectious and very exciting. It was a global movement. It was something that was very big in Australia, but it was happening right throughout Europe and North America, all spearheaded really by the actions of Greta Thunberg from Sweden. It was really exciting to see the way this young teenager from Sweden who was, in a way, quite marginalised because she had Asperger’s syndrome, became the symbol of everything that was wrong with the leadership of the world. She just stood up to them all. I think was such an inspiration to so many young people, including in Australia.
I was following that movement as it was gathering speed. Quite early on in 2019, I got to meet the kids from Castlemaine who were very actively involved. So I started filming them and then I sort of continued filming last year in the lead up to those huge strike actions that happened. I also spent time up at Camp Bimbi. It was young and old: these amazing older women that were like grandmothers. None of them were strident activists. They were just ordinary people who cared about the future of their kids and their grandkids. The way we decided to weave the story was by following these three campaigns and then choosing these sort of landmark campaigns as a way of showing that Australia has got a long history of environmental action.
Q. Were any of your preconceived notions about the climate movement challenged or reinforced by making the film?
A. I think when I started making the film, I went into it with quite an open mind and I mean, I guess I was looking for subjects that were willing to trust me and willing to share their story and be willing to be filmed. And in that process, like all filmmakers, you find some people who you think are going to be really strong characters, but then they kind of fall away or they don’t in the end give you the access that you need. When you’re making a documentary, you really need the subjects to be absolutely on board with the process of being filmed. A lot of people don’t understand what’s involved in making a documentary: they don’t understand that it is quite a long journey. We were filming on and off for two or three years. And right up until when we were editing, we were still looking for sequences that we really needed in order to make the film work. I knew we really needed some strong action sequences of the forest activists defending a coop. I mean, that was really critical. . So we would just be very much reliant on the goodwill of the activists to be able to ring us and say “there’s an action happening and you need to try and get down here to film”. You’re waiting for that action of the two sides meeting, which you sort of need in order to give you some drama. But fortunately, in the end, we did we did get that confrontation, which was what we were we really needed to show our audience what the activists are doing and the reasons why they’re in there.
Q. I understand there was some controversy surrounding the film?
A. There’s a Freedom of Information application in to the Department of State Growth, which is the department where Screen Tasmania is in. And I don’t know who has put in the FOI application, but they say they wanted to see our funding application because they believe that the film is like a “how to guide into how to become an activist”. And it was quite interesting that whoever they are, and I presume they’re from the timber industry, they are so worried about the film that they really have alerted politicians on both sides that they shouldn’t have funded this film.
What they’ve been pushing for is that the guidelines for funding of films need to be reviewed. But that’s an extraordinary thing to be requesting because basically that censorship of the arts. The good thing was that it did create quite a stir in the media and whilst not so much supportive of the film, they were supportive of the fact that these stories should be allowed to be told! You can’t start censoring the arts, you really can’t. It’ll be interesting to see sort of how how it plays out.
Q. Are you optimistic about where we are headed?
A. Look, I’m optimistic that I think there really is an amazing group of young people out there that are very concerned about what’s happening to the planet and to the environment.
And the young people are a great example of that because a lot of them were feeling isolated and depressed and anxious about what was going going on in their futures. But getting involved with other young people and becoming empowered and learning how to use their voice has made them feel much, much happier, much stronger, and more resilient. Bob Brown is a great inspiration. He always says “don’t get depressed, get active”. And I think that’s a really good motto to have.
Interviewed by Jordan Ellis.
Wild Things is screening as part of the Adelaide Film Festival.
Click here for further information, screening details, and to purchase tickets.