Scottish film festival aims to inspire positive social change

Now in its sixth year, the Take One Action film festival smashes the traditional ‘lights down, be quiet’ ethos of film-going and invites discussion and debate in a bid to inspire shared responses to global issues

“Film has this amazing ability to tell stories – stories from around the world and from communities that we wouldn’t necessarily otherwise access.” This is the ethos of Simon Bateson, artistic director and founder of the Take One Action festival, a Scottish event that uses film to inspire meaningful responses to global issues.

Now celebrating its sixth year, the festival has seen more than 20,000 people attend screenings tackling issues from food production to pacifist resistance, and from global democracy to the issue of climate refugees, since its debut in 2008.

This year’s event will unfold in venues in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow between 27 September and 12 October, and Bateson says he feels more optimistic than ever about film’s potential to create positive social change.

“A good film will use all the tools at its disposal to reawaken us intellectually, emotionally and aesthetically in a way that is hard to replicate,” he tells Positive News. “It’s also an increasingly democratic medium. You no longer need a million pounds to make a world-changing film.”

“A good film will use all the tools at its disposal to reawaken us intellectually, emotionally and aesthetically”

Bateson was working as a filmmaker and community worker with the likes of Christian Aid and VSO when he was struck by how communities in Sierra Leone were uniting to overcome problems in the wake of the country’s civil war.

“I was incredibly inspired by what was happening and I wanted to bring a bit of that fire back with me when I returned to Scotland,” he says. “More and more films were being made about inspiring social change, but they needed a platform.

“We want our audiences to feel from the word go that they are entering a different and inspiring atmosphere. It is not ‘lights down, lights off and shuffle in and out quietly’, there are talks and activities so the audience is participating even before the film has started. It’s exciting for people to come together in the same space and watch these incredible films – it’s about having conversations and making connections.”

Top five inspiring new films

Selected by Simon Bateson, artistic director, Take One Action Film Festivals

Girl Rising
With voiceover from Meryl Streep, Alicia Keyes and Liam Neeson, this spirited, colourful and moving film pairs nine ordinary girls from all corners of the globe with acclaimed writers and actors to tell how they overcame the barriers to getting an education. In 2012 Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. Just like Malala, 66 million girls worldwide are currently being denied a basic education, mostly as a result of poverty and gender norms. But “change is like a song you can’t hold back” says Suma from Nepal, who escaped bonded labour to learn how to read, representing the power of difference that educating girls makes in the world.

Fire in the Blood
The inspirational and impassioned story of the activists who fought to stop Western companies and governments blocking access to HIV medicines in the developing world. In the late 90s, medicines were created to curb the impact of HIV on infected individuals, charged at £10,000 per person per year. As a result, Aids-associated deaths dropped by 84% in developed countries. But to maintain profits and supposedly fund research, the drugs companies refused to license more affordable versions, leaving millions to die in countries that couldn’t afford such high prices. Fire in the Blood narrates the remarkable true story of the global activists who laid down their lives and reputations to overturn this injustice.

We Are Wisconsin
When new laws threaten to wipe away basic workers’ rights and lock out public debate, six citizens force their way into the Wisconsin State Capitol building to launch a popular uprising that will not only challenge the lawmakers, but the soul of a nation. Of recent films capturing the tide of protest that began with Occupy Wall Street, Amie Williams’ documentary is perhaps the most shocking and inspirational.

More Than Honey
This award-winning, immersive visual symphony to honeybees and the quirky people who nurture them is a humble battle cry against a global food system that rests on unsustainable methods of pollination. With deftness of touch, and dripping in honeyed cinematography, Markus Imhoof has made the holy grail of bee films celebrating the people and the insects that could save the world.

The Human Scale
By 2050, 80% of humanity will live in urban areas. Against the predominance of the car and the office block, this visionary film asks how we can build cities in developed and developing countries that prioritise the human need for inclusion and relationships over travel and productivity.

Read it and don’t weep.

Headlines about what’s going right in the world are now being shared with millions of people through digital screens on high streets and in shopping centres all around the UK.