Eva Orner’s Burning is the winner of Sydney Film Festival’s inaugural Sustainable Future Award.
Selected from eight nominees, the $10,000 cash prize will be presented to the Amazon Australian Original for deepening the knowledge and awareness of the impact of the global climate emergency.
The award, which has been funded by climate activists, is philanthropically motivated.
Burning, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), looks
at the unprecedented and catastrophic Australian bushfires of 2019-2020 from the perspective of victims of the fires, activists and scientists.
Produced by Propagate Content and Amazon Studios, and executive produced by Cate Blanchett’s Dirty Films, the film marks Amazon’s first feature-length Australian documentary commission. In addition to directing, Orner produces Jonathan Schaerf, with Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens as executive producers.
Burning was selected as the winner by a jury of filmmakers and climate advocates: school student and Strike4Climate activist Natasha Abhayawickrama; documentary filmmaker Bettina Dalton; deputy-vice chancellor research office and Climate Council Member professor Leslie Hughes; actress and philanthropist Amanda Maple-Brown, and documentary filmmaker Tom Zubrycki.
“This compelling documentary serves as a reminder of the devastating bushfires that ravaged Australia in 2019-20,” said the jury in a joint statement.
“Burning is an urgent and angry call to action. It probes and investigates the fires from the perspective of victims, fire-fighters, activists and scientists, as well as the lack of political will to address climate change.”
Other films shortlisted include two other Aussie titles, Justin Krook and Luke Mazzaferro’s A Fire Inside, which also looks back at the 2019/20 bushfire season and Jen Peedom and Joseph Nizeti’s River.
Others to compete include the The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, The Magnitude of All Things, Taming the Garden, From the Wild Sea and How to Kill a Cloud.
“I’m thrilled to be back at Sydney Film Festival for the Australian premiere of Burning,” said Orner.
“It’s such an honour to receive this award and be considered amongst so many incredible films and by such an esteemed jury. I hope the film encourages and
inspires audiences to act now and call governments to action immediately on climate change.”
Blanchett added: “Alongside my partners at Dirty Films, I applaud the Sydney Film Festival for not only honouring Eva’s powerful work on this important subject matter, but for also acknowledging the power of documentaries – in this instance to inspire global audiences to engage in positive action against the ongoing threats of climate change so that we can ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.”
Sydney Film Festival will run in-person November 3-14.
SUSTAINABLE FUTURE AWARD NOMINEES
• A Fire Inside, Grammy-nominated Australian filmmakers Justin Krook’s and Luke
(Red Hill) Mazzaferro’s documentary, reflects on the selfless acts of everyday Aussies
that inspired the nation during the 2019-20 bushfires.
• From the Wild Sea by Danish director Robin Petré. The documentary, which premiered in the 2021 Berlinale, tells the story of the volunteers working tirelessly to rescue Europe’s marine life from pollution and violent weather fuelled by climate change.
• How to Kill a Cloud screens in SFF program strand, Europe! Voices of Women In
Film. The film from director Tuija Halttunen follows a Finnish scientist who takes on a multimillion-dollar project to make rain in the desert, but soon becomes caught in an ethical dilemma between research, finance and the environment.
• The Magnitude of All Things, from director Jennifer Abbott looks at the frontlines of climate change and featuring interviews with Greta Thunberg and other vital activists.
• River is from the Australian creative team behind Mountain, Jennifer
Peedom and Joseph Nizeti. A cinematic love-letter to the world’s waterways,
narrated by Willem Dafoe, the film features footage from 39 countries, matched by the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s score that includes music by Bach, Jonny Greenwood and Radiohead, and First Nations musician William Barton.
• The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, tells the life story of eco-activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, the rock star of the organic food movement, tracing Shiva’s story from the Himalayan forests to the Sydney Peace Prize, childhood to activism, a difficult marriage and to the world stage.
• Taming the Garden, from Georgian director Salomé Jashi tells a shocking, surreal
environmental tale that follows the journey of ancient trees uprooted from their
home in a Georgian coastal community by a wealthy, anonymous man. This film was selected for Sundance, New Directors/New Films, CPH:DOX and Berlinale