Reattuning the Mind

Assuming we want to use media to persuade our fellow humans to action on environmental issues, how best to proceed and what are some of the challenges?

Time and Tide, Peter Hutton

Time and Tide, Peter Hutton

The Eco-Cinema Experience (see chapter references below)

Scott McDonald:

  • Introduces a film tradition that immerses us in nature.
    • “a cinematic experience that models patience and mindfulness.”
    • Directors: Peter Hutton, James Benning, Andrej Zdravic, Sharon Lockhart, J.P. Sniadecki
  • Contrasts their films to commercial media (especially advertising)
    • makes an analogy between the maxinum number of images per second and material consumption/ industrial exploitationof the environment
  • For him eco-cinema cannot be “pro-environmental narratives” shot in a conventional Hollywood or documentary manner.
  • But films that act to change the norms and expectations of spectator
    • via aesthetic choice: slow pace, long takes (i.e. environmental in their form)
    • mechanisms that retrain perception = necessary condition for greater ecological awareness
  • Impact the spectator at the level of affect – aiming to change our way of perceiving.

Time and Tide by Peter Hutton, 2000 (34:23) watch from ~2

  • context of movie, debate about clean up of  PCBs in Hudson (polychlorinated biephenyl): GE argued it would recontaminate the river, others are not content to leave the waste buried
  • first part is 2 min B&W film called Down the River shot in 1903 – hustling busyness of turn of the century concerns contrasted with Hutton’s footage
  • serene pacing
  • shots much longer than current average – maybe 10 -12 times as long
  • extended gaze, says this is worth looking at

Sleep Furiously by Gideon Koppel (~3 min excerpt)

  • set in a small farming community in mid Wales
  • David Ingram suggests it combines “affect and cognitive meaning”
  • Affect
    • long takes,  let the scene unfold
    • focus on small events, natural seasons
  • Cognitive
    • story of traditional community in harmony with landscape under threat offered in snippets of dialog and in the editing
    • not emotional, audience not invited to identify/empathize with characters

Criticism of this kind of eco-cinema:

  • Ingram suggests prior training maybe needed to understand/enjoy these films, and
  • They will not reach mass audiences needed to change public opinion.


“The ecocinema experience,” Scott McDonald in Ecocinema Theory and Practice, eds Rust, Monani, Cubitt, 2013
“The aesthetics and ethics of eco-film criticism.” David Ingram in Ecocinema Theory and Practice, eds Rust, Monani, Cubitt, 2013