ELEMENTAL: A New Film Tracks Three Environmental Champions

ELEMENTAL: A New Film Tracks Three Environmental Champions

Emma Bryce
Published: 06/25/2013


The world’s most pressing environmental crises desperately require champions—but the path to championhood is a slog. That seems to be the core message in a new film, titled ELEMENTAL, available on iTunes, as it tracks the efforts of three compelling characters each connected to nature in a profound way—a campaigner in India set on cleansing the befouled Ganges River, a First Nation activist in Alberta fighting the impact of tar sands extraction in indigenous communities, and an Australian inventor intent on solving climate problems with creations that mirror nature’s design.

The film taps into problems that are currently seeing constant coverage in the news. There’s the ongoing battle over Keystone XL, images of the devastating swell of the Ganges River during recent floods in India abound, and of course, there is plenty of discussion in the wake of Obama’s recent climate announcement. “We were looking at issues that would have relevance in the long term,” says the film’s co-director, Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, pointing out that the themes each character stands for—water, oil, and climate—will remain indefinitely important.


Rajendra Singh on the Ganges, in a still from the film. (Credit: ELEMENTAL)


First up in the film is Rajendra Singh—whose face most often wears an expression of sadness meshed with disgust, as he takes in the pollution that is rife along the banks of the Ganges, a river of central cultural importance in India. “The Ganges saddens me,” he says at the start. “The Ganges worries me. We have dirtied it, so we should clean it.” It’s a simple notion that sets the precedent for the other stories in the film, as Singh—a water conservationist renowned for reviving seven rivers in his home state, Rajasthan—and his team, conclude that only a kind of ‘war’ will change the river’s status quo.

And so, Singh embarks on a journey upriver to speak with communities about pollution, to support towns affected by damming, and to advocate for policies that reject industries that discharge their waste into the water.


Eriel Deranger, in a still from the film (Credit: ELEMENTAL)


Eriel Deranger, the young First Nation activist, undertakes a similarly piecemeal battle as she becomes increasingly entrenched in the fight for indigenous rights, in the face of an industry that maintains a worrying hold on indigenous Canadian communities up north.  She fights her battle by protesting on the street, distributing flyers, and gatecrashing meetings where tar sands developers have their talks.

Her grassroots campaign opens the view on the towering industrial smokestacks, the devastated communities, and polluted waterways where she lives. The directors' aim in parts like this, Vaughan-Lee says, was to create a film “that would, through our character’s trials and tribulations…reveal this tremendous crisis we are in.”


Inventor Jay Harman, in the film (Credit: ELEMENTAL)


And then, Jay Harman, inventor of sustainable energy technologies that mirror natural patterns, faces economic hurdles as he struggles to find investors for one of his more ambitious contraptions. The new design, shaped like the inside of a seashell, creates a wind vortex he believes could help to break up inversion layers in Earth’s atmosphere, and so cool the planet. He is the film’s visionary; a person eternally positive about mankind’s ability to undo the damage it has wrought.

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