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VIFF: In search of truth, in search of hope

I’ve seen 22 films at the Vancouver International Film Festival, with many more to go. In their own unique ways, each filmmaker is trying to uncover truth, to confront lies – and liars – on screen. But these truths would have little meaning without another element: a reason to hope. Which is of course a reason to act.

U.S. director Micha Peled’s Bitter Seeds examines a wave of thousands of suicides in rural India, following a disastrous purchase of genetically modified seeds from the chemical company Monsanto. Unable to provide for their families when their crops fail, the farmers’ despair is palpable.

Hope emerges in the form of Manjusha Ambarwar, a teenaged girl whose father was one of the first farmer suicides. She wants to become a journalist so that she can bring her community’s story to the world, and as she interviews her neighbours, she learns to raise her own voice along with theirs. The film is part of Peled’s “Globalization Trilogy” (along with Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue).

Canadian director Amy Miller’s provocative film The Carbon Rush investigates projects in Panama, India and Honduras that claim to offer innovative solutions to climate change, but seem to create more problems than they solve. Hope, in these stories, is resistance to injustice. That powerful theme is also present in Velcrow Ripper’s “messy” love story about social and environmental world movements, Occupy Love, and in the “kaleidoscopically beautiful” Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, which shows young Mayan people organizing against the world’s largest open-pit gold mine in Guatemala.

These films force us to face the truth: people around the world are suffering and dying because of environmental destruction. But we are not paralyzed by this realization, because we are also left with an incredible feeling of inspiration: if we act to change these things, there is always hope.

There are still lots of inspiring films to see in our environmental series! For a chance to win tickets, post a comment below, or follow me on Twitter @sarafalconer