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Sam Firman
Written by Sam Firman
Published on 18th December 2020
4 min read

Our pick of the best environmental films and sessions from the Kendal Mountain Festival 2020 - all available online until 31st December. 

Gathering at the Kendal Mountain Festival for adventure, ale and friends old and new is always one of the best times of the year. But this year the team deserves special praise. The Kendal magic could easily have been lost with forced digitisation, but it wasn’t. The film programme was impressively ambitious and the discussions retained a feeling of communion. Even that Kendal sense of place, among the Lakes, wasn’t lost. 

Look, we’re not pretending next year won’t be even better in person. But Kendal 2020 has given us so much (too much!) to enjoy. What’s more, a significant perk of a digital festival is being able to enjoy more of it. The Kendal programme remains available until 31st December. What better accompaniment to a festiva food coma? 

By way of both review and enticement to tune back in over Christmas, this is the first of two highlight reels covering our environmental and social favourites respectively. This is only our opinion of course, and the breadth of the programme means we haven’t been able to watch everything. So be sure to help us out by letting us know what we’ve missed on Twitter!

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Chasing Ghosts

Chasing Ghosts invites us deep into one of the most beguiling, under-discussed wild environments on Earth: Florida’s wetlands. We follow a group of passionate researchers on the cusp of a groundbreaking discovery about ghost orchids. The sense of discovery is palpable, and the research process embodied by the humid navigation of swamp life.

Eyes in the Forest

Since the peace process following the demobilisation of the Colombian FARC guerilla group in 2017, deforestation in that region of the Amazon has spiked by over 40%. Eyes in the Forest follows a Wildlife Insights team working against the murky forces propelling the deforestation in a bid to preserve Colombia’s spectacular biodiversity. This is a tense, pressing film that gives fascinating insights into the links between biologists and local communities.

Fools and Dreamers

Fools and Dreamers presents a portrait of botanist Dr. Hugh Wilson and the Hinewai Nature Reserve: over 1500 hectares of land he has fastidious, even obsessively been rewilding for three decades. Adventure stories often overstate the power of the individual, but this is a compelling story of how remarkable people can and do play significant roles in large-scale, pioneering experiments.  

Ocean to Asgard

Ocean to Asgard is a fun, self-shot film following four friends on a 40-day human-powered journey to Baffin Island. Except whitewater shenanigans, striking first ascents and organic friendship. If adventure films can inspire by being impressive or relatable, Ocean to Asgard delivers both - all while showcasing the possibilities of adventuring by human steam.  

Street Surfers

Street Surfers documents the encounter between Frank Solomon, a big wave surfer and marine activist from Cape Town, and street surfers Mokete Mokete and
 Thabo Mouti, who live in poverty recycling plastic bottles. The film shows the connections between these men’s work, and initiates a heartwarming journey for Mokete and Thabo.

The Church of Forests

The Church of Forests depicts the role Ethiopian Orthdox Churches play in educating people about forests, which have been decimated in Ethiopia. The film offers a fascinating case study in how landscape and systems of thought can become entwined.

This Land

This Land follows runner and advocate Faith E. Briggs in running 150 miles through three US National Monument parks. This is a multi-faceted film, ostensibly about land access but also about community, gender, race and so much more. 

Voice Above Water

Voice Above Water tells the story of 90-year-old Wayan, an Indonesian fisherman whose livelihood has been killed by plastic pollution in the ocean. Wayan now uses his boat and time to pull plastic from the ocean. This is a powerful, heartbreaking character portrait that hints of a wider, deeper story to be told of Wayan’s village and way of life.

Youth Environmental Activism with Jack Harries, Alice Aedy and Jemima Longcake

The youth environmental movement has been a vital and hopeful force in recent year. It's essential the outdoor community helps support and nurture it. This discussion was a welcome step in that direction. It was impossible not to come away with a sense of promise, even amidst the anxiety of our environmental crises.