This Changes Everything
Alex Kelly is an artist, filmmaker and activist committed to social justice. She worked for ten years with a leading Australian social change arts Company called ‘Big hART’ as the Creative Producer and was National Producer from 2012-2014. Alex has worked in a range of roles on documentary films including producing ‘Nothing Rhymes’ with Ngapartji, production managing ‘Coniston: Telling it True’ and directing ‘Queen of the Desert’. In 2013 she was awarded a ‘Churchill Fellowship’ and explored various models for social change documentary impact and engagement in the UK, Canada and USA. Alongside working on ‘This Changes Everything’ Alex is producing a TV series on social movements in Australia and plans to launch a documentary film festival in her home town of Alice Springs, Australia in 2016.
How would you describe the year we are leaving – how did you experience it?
2015 was a year of increasingly amplified crises and also of increasingly powerful responses to these crises by social movements. I was both horrified by world events but also deeply inspired by activists building power across the world. In particular I was affected by the horrific treatment of refugees and asylum seekers across the world but particularly in my home country of Australia. In contrast with the brutal immigration policies there is also powerful resistance inside and outside the camps with people blocking deportations, building campaigns and organisations to support refugees where the government is failing them. In the USA I feel devastated by the recurrent news of young coloured people being shot by police and I am therefore inspired by the fierce, proud and powerful ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Globally we have just experienced the hottest year on record and yet we see fossil fuel companies hell-bent on digging up what we know we must leave in the ground if we are able to have a chance of planetary survival. And in tandem we see the emergence of a powerful global climate justice movement connecting the dots between these multiple overlapping crises and demanding a just transition based on the ‘leave it in the ground’ philosophy.
What is the biggest success you achieved in 2015?
I am incredibly proud to be part of the ‘This Changes Everything’ team and in 2015 we rolled out the documentary film globally in a very unusual way and very quickly. We premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on 13th September and two weeks later we held ‘movement premieres’ across Europe. Soon after we opened in cinemas across the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and in late October the film was available online as well as for grassroots screenings around the world. Thousands of people participated in screenings and discussions in the lead up to COP21 and we got wonderful feedback from audiences about what a useful tool it was for their organisations which was everything we had hoped for.
What were the biggest challenges during the year?
The tragic Paris attacks in November had a huge impact on civil society’s plans around the COP21 climate meetings. Finding a way to respond to both terror attacks and imposed state control and violence was a complex challenge. I am very inspired by the way in which French activists and organisers navigated around this and very proud of the climate justice movement globally for being robust and strong enough to connect the dots between issues and solutions.
Artists have a powerful role in society to help us reflect on and challenge meaning, definitions and ideas about the past, present and future.
What is special about working with artists?
Arts and culture are at the core of our society and identity – the stories we tell about ourselves and each other shape our world. Artists have a powerful role in society to help us reflect on and challenge meaning, definitions and ideas about the past, present and future. I enjoy working with people who take creative risk and I love the ways in which a gutsy artistic practice can challenge me to think differently.
What motivated you to work in film and engage with art?
I am driven by a deep commitment to social justice and quite early in my life I became excited by the power of music, media and film to drive big conversations with diverse audiences. I like the ways in which creativity forces us to let go, take risks and come at things in different ways.
Can you tell us more about ‘This Changes Everything’ project?
‘This Changes Everything’ is a book, a film and an engagement project that seems to reframe the climate crisis. At its core, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING is a revolutionary call. The book and film make the case that we’ve failed to deal with climate change because truly doing so would require deep challenges to the current dominant economic logic. The key message is that the transformative changes required to confront the crisis should not be viewed as punishments to fear but as a kind of gift.
the transformative changes required to confront the crisis should not be viewed as punishments to fear but as a kind of gift.
By proving that the climate crisis cannot be solved without closing the inequality gap and deepening democracy at every level, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING will wrest the climate issue away from the scientists and technocrats and turn it into an open and urgent debate about the kind of world we want to live in. So basically, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING is a powerful tool to reframe the climate conversation within educational institutions, among grassroots movements and also in the media.
What is the impact that you are bringing with your work for changing the world?
I hope that I encourage people to believe that change is possible. I think this is critical to people taking action.
What is your big resolution for 2016?
American poet, farmer and activist Wendell Berry says “Stop somewhere and start the thousand year process of knowing that place”. In 2016 I want to pull my focus back from the global to the local. I want to concentrate on protecting the water supply in my town from fracking and standing with senior indigenous people who oppose proposed nuclear waste dumps on their land. I want to bring all the lessons I’ve learnt on the road over the past few years home to Central Australia.