A local charity organization has taken the concept of making a change within to spark change in the world and made it into a film series now entering its 11th year.
The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation (BMWTF) established the Be The Change film series together with Elephant Thoughts, and the idea was inspired by the quote sometimes attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
(While the origins of the direct quote are disputed, the general message behind the phrase can be traced back to Ghandi’s writings.)
The film series runs annually in the fall and winter, and the films are shown at the Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood.
Carl Michener is the communication chair for BMWTF, and has been a volunteer with the organization for six years.
He said the series provides something different during the week, and it’s also become an intimate social gathering where movie-goers can buy healthy snacks from the Collingwood Collegiate Institute Gaia club, check out the art on the walls at the Simcoe Street Gallery, and spend the evening conversing with others who are also there to learn about a global issue or concept.
“People have been coming for all 11 years,” said Michener. “It’s the closest thing to a repertory cinema we have in town, and people like that … it creates a sense of community.”
He said the films are documentaries with an environmental or a social issue theme, and the aim is to create awareness of those types of issues around the world while also raising funds for the BMWTF operating budget.
“People take films that have a world view and they also think about how it applies to their natural, local environment," said Michener. "We try and choose movies that are somewhat didactic that help them make good choice.
The mission of the BMWTF is to preserve and enhance the Blue Mountain watershed eco-system, including waterways and forests or other wild areas.
The film series does include a documentary on forests (Call of the Forest), and one on the world’s seas (Sea of Life), but it also includes films like You Are What You Act, which is about the power of body language to impact your own mental state. For instance, if you smile, it can eventually make you feel happy.
The series opened with a film called Metamorphosis, which was “like a poem in pictures,” according to Michener. The film included images and footage from places all over the world where change has taken place both for better and worse.
The next film on the list is Call of the Forest (Jan. 16), which is a study on the biological and spiritual connection humans have to forests. The film explores the science, folklore, and restoration challenges of forests.
The subject is one near and dear to the mission of the BMWTF. Growth is happening at a fast pace in Collingwood and The Blue Mountains, and Michener said that has a big impact on the forests of the Blue Mountain Watershed.
The charity is advocating for “a more considerate approach to planning,” said Michener. He noted there are current rules for setbacks from rivers or sensitive land, but by building right up to those setbacks, development is still negatively impacting the land that is supposed to be protected by the buffers.
“We need to say 'here are the areas we think are good, solid building areas that are not going to negatively impact those wildlife corridors,'” said Michener, adding he hopes things like the Be The Change film series and other work by the BMWTF will help more people get involved and get vocal about land-use planning in Collingwood and The Blue Mountains.
“Right now, [town staff and council] mostly hear from developers,” said Michener.
The BMWTF regularly engages with three levels of government and has taken planning matters to court in the name of preserving and enhancing the watershed.
“I think growth is good and it’s something Collingwood and The Blue Mountains can support,” said Michener, adding growth should done in a way to add density in urban areas and leave some of the wild, open areas undeveloped.
The next film in the Be The Change film series is playing on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Simcoe Street Theatre. Tickets are $10 or $5 for youth 12-18 years old. A full schedule of upcoming films can be found here.
Tickets are available for cash only at the Collingwood Rock Shop or at the door.
This year BMWTF is running the series without Elephant Thoughts, but has maintained the title sponsor Royal LePage Locations North.