Ethno-eco dialogue
: filmmaking for environmental sustainability

  • Birut Irena Zemits

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    In the 21st century, a large proportion of the world’s population find themselves in far-flung corners of the earth, without physical contact with environments their ancestors struggled to call their own. In Australia, people come from other continents to create a multicultural society in a land where Indigenous people have lived for thousands of years. For all these people, there is an urgent need to respond to issues that result from natural environments being subsumed and consumed to resource human needs.

    Seeking ways to engage people in the pressing need to protect the environment, this doctoral research is driven by two main questions. How is cultural identify linked with affinity to the natural environment? How can filmmaking represent this affinity to promote ways to protect a particular environment? This research explores the proposition that documentary film is a powerful and persuasive means to extend dialogue that considers issues of identity in place and action for environmental sustainability.

    This thesis comprises two main documentary films and an exegesis of 30, 000 words. The exegesis provides a context and explanation of methods used to research these films. Six supplementary short films inform the filmmaking practice. The first main film, Tur Mēs Bijām, Te Mēs Esam (There we Were, Here we Are), is bilingual in English and Latvian. It explores cultural and generational shifts in affinity to natural places. The second, Sharing Vision, is set in Darwin. It is a composition of workshops, interviews and events that explore actions for environmental sustainability.

    If I have extended dialogue about the inter-relationship of people and natural places, I have achieved the aims of this research.
    Date of AwardMar 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSylvia Kleinert (Supervisor)

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