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Los Angeles, Mar 6 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 6th Mar, 2023 ) : While James Cameron’s ecological science fiction novel “Avatar: The Way of Water” is fighting for the best picture at the Oscars, its fellow nominees in the documentary categories have been busy reporting very real threats to our own planet.
From the smoldering skies of New Delhi to the melting sea ice of Siberia, “All That Breathes” and “Haulout” each use complex, local stories to shine a global spotlight on man’s desecration of nature here on Earth.
Brother-and-sister filmmakers Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva are the first indigenous Yakut filmmakers to be nominated for an Oscar with “Hailout,” which follows a scientist in Siberia who maps the catastrophic effects of the climate crisis on walrus populations.
The short film, which has little dialogue, opens with stunning shots and the screeching sound of the stark, windswept Arctic coast, as marine biologist Maxim Chakilev patiently waits by his shack for migrating walruses to arrive.
Suddenly, 100,000 of the round mammals appear outside his hut, huddled together on the beach. It’s a mesmerizing spectacle at first, but one we later learn is the result of sea ice loss – and the dangerous congestion is having a deadly effect.
“We just hope that we can join the chorus of scientists and artists from all over the world and contribute to this conversation about the dire state of our planet,” said Arbugaeva.
The siblings told AFP that their Oscar nomination in the short documentary category was a cause for great celebration in their remote homeland.
And they’re even planning to bring Chakilev – their brooding, lonely marine biologist – to the glamorous awards ceremony in Los Angeles on March 12.
But the spotlight on their ancestral habitat is important for conveying how the climate crisis is affecting human and animal life, in very different ways, around the world.
“We have access to this very important area in the Arctic,” Arbugaeva said.
“Speaking from the home country, I think it’s very, very important,” she added.
“The stories we see, they’re not the stories that are on the surface… it takes years to just be there and understand.” Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes, a feature-length documentary set in India’s capital, also examines how animals have been forced to change their behavior by humans.
It follows three men who have dedicated their lives to an improvised and largely self-funded wildlife sanctuary, which cares for some of the hundreds of birds that fall victim to Delhi’s polluted air every day.
Every day, crates of injured black kites arrive in their basement, and the trio even perform a daring river rescue of one with a broken wing.
“Hundreds of birds fall from the sky every day. What surprises me is that people continue as if everything is normal,” one of the men tells his wife.
The men discuss how the birds have learned to scavenge for rubbish, collect cigarette butts as a parasite deterrent and – apparently – even sing at a higher pitch to express themselves over the thundering traffic of Delhi.
Sen told AFP that he chose his subjects to make viewers “consider the complexity of human and non-human life”. In addition to the noxious air, many of the birds are injured by the strings of toy wooden kites flown by humans.
But for Sen, even the recent wave of eco-oriented films is “not enough”. “There should be a lot more, given the level of attention the planetary situation demands,” the director said.
Sen believes filmmakers must create “more complex stories that make us think about the planet” rather than focusing on “just gloom and doom and despair”. His film opens with a sweeping shot of rubbish dumps, before gradually revealing the wildlife that has learned to thrive in the filth.
In contrast, “Haulout” opens with incredible natural beauty before revealing the insidious tragedy created by the loss of sea ice, which means walruses arrive exhausted on the crowded beach where many are crushed to death.
One heartbreaking scene shows a malnourished walrus pup stabbing the body of its dead mother before feebly trying to swim out to sea.
“When local storytellers tell stories about their environment, it’s something that’s so personal… you’re talking about your own heart and the heart of your community that’s breaking,” Arbugaeva said.
During the filming of the tragic walrus video, my hands would shake because I would just get so emotional or cry that the camera wouldn’t stabilize,” she recalled.
“Sometimes some footage wasn’t usable. Key, important moments. But it’s just really hard.”