(Cover Image Credit: https://www.scythiafilms.com/youth-unstoppable/)

Last night, I had the opportunity to watch “Youth Unstoppable” at the ReFrame Film Festival a documentary about the untold stories about youth from all different parts of the world. The film showcased their fight to pressure global leaders to stand up for the next generations.

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Photo Credit: ReFrame Film Festival

What did I think of the documentary? 

I was very moved by the narrative of Slater Jewell-Kemker, the director, and her interesting journey through time.

Ever since she was 15 years old, Slater has been collecting footage of various climate conferences. 10 years later, she stands tall with her black-rimmed hat, ready to captivate an audience with her masterpiece.

What I found the most striking about the film was the patterns throughout history – just when we think there is progress, a shift in power from key decision-makers in governments can ruin many years of work from those on the front line of climate action.

I was also reminded that climate change is a global problem. Just because we might not feel the effects day-to-day where we live, doesn’t mean that people around the world aren’t experiencing tremendous consequences.

Youth Unstoppable reminds us of our important role as global citizens.

The choices of developed countries choices impact the underdeveloped countries.

Slater offers viewers a unique perspective on how we must unite as a holistic species to tackle this problem together.

Climate change doesn’t care about borders – and Slater challenges us to remember her many friends in Nepal and Bangladesh and others in various countries who are suffering from droughts and floods.

A common chant in the film “We are Unstoppable, Another World is Possible” really struck me, even as the film came to a close. It is one that will play in my head for a long time.

I was touched when Slater, who was the Youngest Director at the Canadian Film Festival, agreed to speak with me this week about her film.

I had the opportunity to interview her. Here’s what she told me:

1. What inspired your idea for this documentary?

“I grew up in the film industry. My family has a strong background in film, so I used this to my advantage to help document this important story. When I was 15 years old, I was chosen to represent Canada at the G8 Youth Summit. I was joined by 150 youth around the world. At the time, there were real concrete ideas for moving forward and an open dialogue was taking place with environment ministers. However, what I noticed was that having the youth up on stage with flags of their country was more just a photo-op of ministers and it wasn’t what the youth were hoping for. I was extremely disappointed because I felt shut out – and climate change was a problem we should have been doing something about yesterday. Frustrated and let down by this feeling that the people who were supposed to represent us weren’t listening to the next generation, I chose to do something. At the time, I was stubborn, naive, but also determined and angry – I knew if no one else was going to do something, then I was going to. I started attending U.N. conferences around the world to witness how the youth around the world was reacting to climate change.”

2. What surprised you most about your findings?

“A lot of people don’t understand climate change – or don’t really understand a lot of what is going on to the extent that it is. They might feel how it’s changing, but they don’t know how all the components fit together. These international conferences connected me to people around the world within this movement and I wanted to share their stores to show that there are huge stakes at place in hopes the public would better understand the impacts climate change is having. Climate change isn’t a fad. It doesn’t go through phases, and it isn’t just a trending topic. It is a huge issue, and there are already affects like human migration and conflict. It is overwhelming – but I am seeing that things are changing on the grassroots level. “

3. What were the trends that emerged over the 10-year film?

“The language, I think, has changed the most. Now the climate movement is more inclusive, people are working together. Indigenous groups are involved, there is more positive tones. The central idea is that we need to work together. There is a growing sense of how we treat each other as human beings, how we care about each other, and the perception of climate change is changing – people are looking for opportunities.”

4. What is the main take-home message from your documentary?

“The answer is always NO until you demand change and until you ask for it. There is no debate that this is happening – we need to break our addiction to fossil fuels and industries that contribute to them. We also need to remember that not everyone wants to hear about climate change, but we can’t leave people behind. We need to get everyone on board. Don’t give up, and keep fighting.” 

If you missed the film, I’d highly recommend watching it – and stay tuned, as this film will have multiple screenings!

Slater’s story is inspiring.

She’s a true fighter, and her film will undoubtedly have a large impact at encouraging climate action around the world.

Slater is in Peterborough this weekend for the ReFrame festival, so you might just see her around.

The ReFrame Festival is happening January 25-January 27th. There are many more films to see at ReFrame Festival, and you can see it all on the website. I will be heading to some of the other environmental documentaries!