Sundance plays matchmaker for filmmakers and social activists |

Sundance plays matchmaker for filmmakers and social activists

Nan Chalat Noaker, Record editor

Some of the world’s leaders in addressing environmental and economic challenges gathered on Main Street Sunday. Among the dignitaries were the Nobel Peace Prize economist Muhammad Yunus and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Both encouraged filmmakers to use their medium to promote social activism.

Yunus is featured in the film "To Catch a Dollar," which was nurtured in part by the Sundance Institute’s Stories of Change initiative. The program, in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, supports documentary filmmakers whose subjects involve social entrepreneurship. For example, "To Catch a Dollar" is about the Grameen Bank’s efforts to provide microloans to low-income women in Queens, New York. Though microloans the Grameen Bank is credited with helping 7.5 million families in Banghladesh, leading the Nobel committee to recognize its founder, Yunus with its top honor in 2006.

Yunus said the success of his program is based in part on its focus on individuals, whether they live in Bangladesh or Queens. He also said philanthropists need to be more adventurous to have an impact on the world’s pressing problems.

The film’s director, Gayle Ferraro, said her next project will revolve around "social business partnerships," which she described as efforts to measure a business’s success "on standards other than the bottom line." She said she is interested in the notion that businesses may instead want to measure their success by helping to solve problems like health care and global warming.

A second panel, hosted by the Creative Coalition, featured the producer of "Climate Refugees," Michael Nash, along with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, the noted environmental scientist Lester Brown, and United Nations migration expert Dr. KoKo Warner.

Nash’s film takes viewers on a circumnavigation of the globe’s worst environmental disasters and focuses on the people they have displaced. According to Senator Boxer, it is a problem that "keeps her awake at night."

"The train has left the station and it is already knocking people over," she said, adding that passing environmental legislation in Washington is still an uphill battle. In fact, she fears Congress is moving backwards.

Scientists and politicians in the film make a strong case that, whether human-caused or a product of nature, deterioration of the environment will inevitably lead to worldwide political instability. Millions of people have already been forced from their countries by floods and drought, leading to a whole new category of refugees; hence the title of the film.

Furthermore, according to Warner, the United Nations may not have the resources to help all of them. As originally chartered, the UN has a responsibility to help protect political refugees, but climate refugees are a new and fast-growing concern.

According to Boxer, passing climate legislation is "about saving civilization. It is so big and so important." She added, "There are a lot of good people working on this in Congress, but so far we don’t have that magic number."

To the filmmakers at the panel, she said, they can help by spreading the word in their work. "This film does what I can’t do. Gore through his film ("Inconvenient Truth) and Michael (Nash, "Climate Refugees") are teaching us. I hope everyone goes to see this film."

"To Catch a Dollar" screens Friday, Jan. 29, at 6:45 p.m. at the Broadway Centre Cinema in Salt Lake City and Saturday, Jan. 30, at midnight at Holiday Village Cinema II

"Climate Refugees" screens Friday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. at Sundance Resort and Saturday Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. at Holiday Village Cinema III

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