Transitions Film Festival: we don’t have lightyears to save humanity

Transitions Film Festival spotlights the threats facing humanity, from climate change to AI to plastic pollution.
A female robot's head looks at an artificial human skull

This year’s Transitions Film Festival is predicting the future – and so far it’s shaping up to be one that desperately needs sustainability.

The lineup of inspirational and though-provoking documentaries is set to showcase Australian and international non-fiction filmmakers. Among them you’ll find many who want to lead the way to a better world, whether it be through innovations in artificial intelligence or putting an entire country on trial for failure to act on climate change.

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Transitions festival, with a program heavily focused on potential solutions to the climate crisis.

We caught up with festival director Daniel Simons once again to talk about the selected films, and his vision for global change.

What is this year’s theme for the festival and how does it resonate with you?

Daniel Simons: Every year, the Transitions Film Festival showcases a range of films about the most important issues of our time. We showcase films about climate change, biodiversity, artificial intelligence, social impact, global economics, indigenous issues – and anything focused on addressing our greatest collective challenges. We don’t have a specific theme for this year, but the program does have, as always, a strong emphasis on solutions to climate change. 

The apocalyptic 2019-2020 Australian bush fires were a dire warning: respect the environment and listen to indigenous wisdom, or our world will become a living hell.

How did the decision to go online affect last year’s festival?

DS: There is nothing like being in a cinema surrounded by a like-minded community, and then continuing the conversation after a film in the cinema bar or a cafe on Lygon street. On the other hand, having the program online was fantastic because it meant that anyone in Australia could watch the films. 

Being online also means that we had great access to international filmmakers without the carbon miles. 

Read: Exploring solutions for a better world, Transitions Film Fest goes online

This year we have more filmmaker Q&A sessions than we have ever had before which gives everyone a great opportunity to dig deeper into the films.

We’ve found the online platform we use (Eventive) to be great. The fact that people don’t have to travel into the cinema for every session also means that we are getting a great number of people purchasing festival passes so they can ‘binge’ all the films in the program. 

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s program?

DS: We are hosting a few ‘in cinema’ sessions in Melbourne this year, including a free screening of Ecocide at Melbourne’s iconic Capitol Theatre in partnership with The National Sustainable Living Festival and The Goethe-Institut of Australia, and another free screening of A.rtificial I.mmortality at Science Gallery Melbourne. We have been waiting for Science Gallery to open for many years so we are excited to be screening there so close to its opening. 

This feature documentary explores the latest thinking and technological advancements in AI.

What are you hoping the audience response to the 2022 festival will be like?

DS: Our festival ‘logline’ is ‘inspiration, empowerment, impact’. So we hope that our audiences come away from the festival inspired, empowered and ready to create impact in the world. 

In our exit surveys we ask our audience what influence the festival had on their lives. The best answers are always from those who respond that, as a result of the festival, they decided to change their course of study or their career. It’s not about people watching a 90-minute movie and starting to use a keep cup, it’s about people changing who they are and dedicating their entire lives to what is most important. 

We don’t just want people to be entertained, we want them to connect to the changemaker communities of the world and help rewrite the future, while we still have time.

Is a ‘better world’ just around the corner or is it light years away?

DS: A better world is happening every day if you know the right places to look. The films in our program show us what is possible if we embrace the solutions that already exist. 

There are a lot of existential threats right on our doorstep, from climate change to biodiversity loss to plastic pollution and runaway artificial intelligence. We don’t have lightyears to wait. We need to meet these challenges head-on while the window for change is still open. Otherwise we might run out of time. 

Read: Focus on Resilience: Transitions Film Festival 2020

What’s the most challenging aspect of using film to enact global change?

DS: Have you seen Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up was a 2021 release about two low-level astronomers who try to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy the planet. The climate change metaphor is obvious.

What vision do you have for the festival’s future?

DS: Hopefully we are moving into ‘post-covid’ life, where things will start to return to normal. I think that online festivals have a lot of benefits, so they are probably here to stay. 

The future of film festivals is hybrid. Maybe in the distant future, they will all be held in the ‘metaverse’. 

Our festival slogan is ‘the future is now’, so we’re less focused on the vision for the festival’s future and more excited about the festival’s visions for our future. We hope the audience feels the same. A lot of the films in our program will be hard to find after the festival finishes so the time to watch them is now. 

Director’s Quick Picks

  • Top pick/don’t miss it –  Barricade 
  • If you’re a documentary maker looking to develop your practiceWho We Were , Youth v Gov and Dear Future Children 
  • If you’re an activist looking for inspiration –  The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, Barricade and Youth v Gov
  • If you want to be outragedHot Money 
  • If you’re an Australian wanting to explore local issuesInferno Without Borders and Australian Shorts 
  • Wildcard A.rtificial I.mmortality 

The Transitions Film Festival runs from 18 February to 13 March, at cinemas in Melbourne and online.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports