Europe’s making green movies, what’s stopping us?

The Masterclass, one of the last side events of the Bangladesh European Union Film Festival (BEUFF), attracted thousands of viewers on Prothom Alo’s digital platform

Let’s start without getting into too many complex words like ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘sustainability’. For the lay person, these often appear a little cumbersome. In short, green movies is the process through which a film is made with very little negative impact on the environment. I know, some of you may still be scratching your head.

Don’t blame you! In fact, there are many who still think that a green film has something to do with green backgrounds or the predominance of green as a colour in the movie.

Green films protect nature

Let’s put it this way, in a film which is certified green, special attention is given to ensure that empty soda bottles, damaged films or even other discarded items are not left on the shooting site plus a natural setting is left unscathed.

The definition is certainly far wider, though the base line of such a move is to create as little harm to nature as possible.

In countries like Bangladesh, green filming may still be a novel concept but since the country is at the forefront of climate change, actions that safeguard nature are crucial in all our endeavours, be it for nation building or for making movies.

Currently, ‘green filming’ is the craze in Europe. Spearheaded by a strong network of European film institutes, one of which is the Italian public institution, Trentino Film Fund and Commission, it fervently promotes movies that do minimum damage to ecology.

Unsurprisingly, this dovetails with EU’s Green Deal, aiming to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050.

Green movie masterclass in Bangladesh

To spread this pro-environment initiative globally, on 29 June last, European Union in Bangladesh invited the organisation’s Film Commissioner, also a globally renowned Italian film maker, Alberto Battocchi, to conduct a special session called a masterclass on eco-friendly films. The Masterclass was held as part of the Bangladesh European Film festival, accessible through the website, and was broadcast live from the Facebook pages of the Daily Prothom Alo as well as the European Union in Bangladesh.

Eight film enthusiasts participated in the event, moderated by Gopa Biswas Caesar – assistant professor at Dhaka University’s Department of Film, Television and Photography – after a highly competitive selection process.

Needless to add, this was organised keeping the current scenario of the climate crisis in mind. The online session provided a remarkable opportunity for emerging film directors to learn about green film production. According to Battochi, environmentally filmmaking involves several steps: choosing accommodation as close as possible, preferably within 10 km of the shooting location alongside using energy-efficient cars to reduce fuel consumption; saving energy by using LED lights; eliminating plastic from the catering services; selecting eco-friendly materials; managing waste through efficient segregation; and, communicating the significance of sustainable filmmaking by engaging film celebrities.

Why should Bangladesh make green movies?

Commenting on the importance of nature-friendly cinema, Ismail Hossain, a young movie maker, said, “In Bangladesh, the emphasis should be more on protecting the environment because most commercial films shoot their songs at spots which are vulnerable.”

“From Cox’s Bazar to the hills in Sylhet to the forests in the Sunderbans, commercial films try to add exoticism to their productions often neglecting the need to introduce measures to protect the environment.”

Loud noise from shooting, plus reckless incursions by humans, often disturb ecological harmony which is a form of environmental degradation, deplored Ismail.

In Europe, movies that fulfil certain pro-environment conditions are given green certificates from verification bodies. This also increases the possibility of getting grants from EU nations.

Institutions promoting sustainability

Institutions play a crucial role in promoting sustainability. They can decide to adopt it in different ways. For instance, the Belgian film making body – Wallimage – introduced the certification as a mandatory requirement for their film funds from 2021. This demonstrates the importance of institutions in encouraging the practice. Additionally, Battocchi suggested the need to maintain a uniform standard of green film production for global incorporation.

Popularising ‘Green Movies’ in Bangladesh

The best way is to follow the European model and set up an institution giving certification.

But many local film makers feel that as a first step, the green certification can be tagged with the Department of Environment, DoE, which can inspect the shooting sites of a film and stamp it green.

Movies that score high in the green initiative can be given government approval or special grants, observed Zahid Hossain, currently making a film premised in an urban slum.

“Also crucial is the awareness of saving ecology among our artistes. A film celebrity can make a momentous difference once s/he adds as a pro-environment ‘Green’ clause in all the movie contracts,” added Zahid.

The Masterclass, one of the last side events of the Bangladesh European Union Film Festival (BEUFF), attracted thousands of viewers on Prothom Alo’s digital platform. The BEUFF ran between 9-30 June to mark the 50th anniversary of independence for Bangladesh and to celebrate the robust friendship and unwavering relationship between the two partners. This phenomenal online film festival screened 21 films: Seven European feature films with Bangla subtitles, seven Bangla films and seven international short films on climate change.

Climate change is also a crucial area of EU’s engagement in Bangladesh, and currently, it is helping Bangladesh build a power system that will meet maximum coverage of the country’s energy demand through renewable energy.

Going green in movies is becoming an essential feature in Europe; hopefully, the trend will catch on here. We are waiting to see a film being publicised with the tagline: it’s, thrilling, exciting, and unswervingly green!

* Zara Islam is a freelance writer