On 15 September, 1971, the run-down MV Phyllis Cormack, aka 'Greenpeace', set sail from Vancouver harbour. The small group of journalists, scientists and environmentalists aboard were unified by one goal: to navigate directly into the blast zone of a U.S nuclear weapons test on the island of Amchitka, Alaska.
Whilst the voyage garnered national attention, tensions arose amongst the crew, their idealism checked by the magnitude of their task. Greenpeace was intercepted by U.S customs over a thousand miles from their destination and was ultimately forced to limp homeward.
The Founders of Greenpeace
But despite the mission's apparent failure, the savvy media campaign run by the crew meant that the expedition propagated an unshakeable idea in the minds of the public. The Nixon administration was forced to take notice, and five months later the nuclear program was quietly shut down. 'As it turned out, all my angst was unnecessary...The trip was a success beyond anybody's wildest dreams,' Bob Hunter, the group’s unelected leader, later wrote.
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This initial ideology planted a seed that rapidly grew into a global movement. In 1975, Hunter and his crew captured powerful footage of Greenpeace members risking their lives to prevent the dissolute slaughter of whales in the Atlantic. This time the activists succeeded in positioning themselves directly in the line of fire – between the whalers and their quarry – capturing the moment a harpoon embeds itself into the side of a stricken whale.
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With the footage, Hunter achieved a “media-mind bomb” (his term for what we now refer to as 'going viral') and overnight Greenpeace became a household name. Ironically Hunter, an anti-establishment and anarchic pacifist, suddenly found himself leader and authority over an international organisation, which remains one of the most visible environmental charities in the world.
How To Change The World review: an ode to the transformative power of film
How to Change the World documents the sincere effort of a few individuals to enact, for the first time, environmental change on a global scale. Since the growth of Greenpeace was as much to do with the founders’ understanding of media capital as with their feats of activism, director Jerry Rothwell has a wealth of archive material from which to draw.
The history of Greenpeace is inspiring in its own right, but Rothwell's extremely personal and often fraught insight into the inner workings of the movement provides valuable reflection. Original footage is skilfully interspersed and juxtaposed with recent interviews, maintaining momentum throughout that forgives Rothwell's occasional lapses in focus.
How to Change the World, then, is an ode to the value that media played in the origins of Greenpeace: a self-referential and moving tribute to the power that film holds in capturing the imagination and enacting change. In cinemas from 9 September it's not one to miss.
Click here to watch How To Change The World documentary trailer, and here for cinemas in London showing How To Change The World.
SPECIAL SCREENING PLUS Q&A: Vivienne Westwood
Curzon Cinemas will be screening the film in various Curzon Cinemas on Wednesday 9th September followed by a live satellite Q&A with Vivienne Westwood (a long standing supporter of Greenpeace) director Jerry Rothwell, Robert Hunter’s daughter Emily Hunter and other special guests to be announced. Click here for more information.
|What||How To Change The World: documentary about the Greenpeace movement|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
09 Sep 15 – 01 Nov 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||London cinemas showing How To Change The World|