Exclusive – Metamorphosis – A Poem for the Planet

Global Warming is upon us and we all have an opportunity to step up and address it.  If we choose not to, the consequences will be harsh and swift. The science is out there and a movement has begun. Clean energy is now an option that has reached across borders to empower society to choose. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear because the information has been made crystal clear and in terms we can all understand. We have all been guests of this planet with bad behavior. We’ve stopped cleaning up after ourselves and have forgotten our responsibility to say thank you and return the favour for all it has given us. It’s time to give back before the planet turns its back on us.    

I was recently invited to the premiere of the film, Metamorphosis. The filmmakers Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami were in attendance. It’s an extraordinary film that addresses climate change and global warming using the Monarch butterfly as its ambassador for change. The Monarch butterfly migrates 3000 miles yearly but climate change has stood to threaten that. It is a resilient species but it to has its limits. After watching the film I was fortunate enough to speak with these brilliant and compassionate crusaders of change. It was an overdue education I never knew I needed. This film offers a new narrative around climate change and delivers a profound message of hope. Filmed in locations around the world including Vanuatu, New Mexico, Alberta’s Badlands, the Canary Islands, California, Japan, and Mexico.

Since Velcrow and Nova are a couple, they’ve responded to my questions as one unit.

What was it that compelled you to make this documentary?

“About 4 yrs ago Velcrow and I were talking about making a film together at the same time typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. I’ve been to the Philippines many times and my background is Philippine.  Over 6000 people died. We began to talk about how an event like that could change a person who had lived through it and how humanity is changing as a result of a crisis we created. It really led to a deeper conversation about change, how we deal with it, how we respond to change, resist change and moving through it.  We began to go on walk’n talks where we would walk through nature and explore some of the themes and how we’d explore them in a film. With the idea of change and the metamorphosis being the idea of using the metaphor of the Monarch butterfly and that whole process of transforming. The butterfly is under threat from climate change but is also very resilient. That’s how it all got started.”

The cinematography is captivating and at times seems like a love letter to the audience watching. We can tend to get complacent in our existence. The images remind us that Mother Nature is still hard at work producing beauty in all its forms.

Incidentally, this is not their first doc of this nature. They have incorporated elements of it in the film, Occupy Love. Velcrow did a documentary in the ’90s called Bones of the Forest about the ancient tempered rain forest of BC and the struggle to save them.   

This was Nova’s first feature doc on climate change.

Did you consider other insects or animals to represent effects of climate change?

“The film does cover the overall species extinction but because the film covers so much ground we focused in on them as a kind of indicator species.  With everything in the film, the ideas are design principals. The story of the species is representing the overall threat to species. The film is not like a textbook, it’s more like a poem. You can apply the ideas and the themes to other species, other projects.”

There are some people that believe global warming is the aftermath of the Ice Age. Is it really possible to measure man’s impact on global warming, since the ice was melting before we started contributing?

“Ninety seven percent of scientists say that global warming is human caused. The 3% that don’t, it’s more of a red herring argument. We don’t go there in the film. We don’t want to put our energy into that kind of discussion.  This film is not a climate change 101, it’s not meant to be a text book or lecture people on what climate change is because we’re assuming people already know. It’s already in our backyard and this is about taking it to another level. There’s a cartoon, in which one of the characters exclaims, ‘what if we do all the work and clean up the air, clean our cities and make our communities healthy, and it turns out that climate change is a hoax and we’ve done that for nothing?The fact of the matter is, all the solutions to climate change are also solutions that we need to do to have a truly healthy, functional and sustainable society. It’s a win win solution with positive changes.”

In the film, they demonstrate the lengths that some people have gone to have a sustainable home, referred to as Earth Ships. Within the confounds of the property the residents have created ways to grow their own food and recycle their waste. They create clean energy with a zero carbon footprint. The Earth Ships represent what is capable on a large scale but the rudiments can be integrated/applied into all our lives at some scale.

“Processing what is going on and releasing it and moving through to the symbiosis phase of the film, which is learning to live in mutually enhancing relationships where we can enrich the planet instead of constantly degrading the planet.”

When making this film, was there anything you had discovered that surprised you?

“One was travelling with our baby in tow. That whole process was kind of an ongoing surprise of how to make a film with a baby. Another part of the production that was super challenging was when we filmed with the artist Jean-Paul Bourdier. He does the body scape art, where the bodies are painted to blend in with the landscape.  He took us to really remote places. We went off-roading that took us through some really extreme conditions. It was really surprising to me how challenging that part would be. To see him capture his art was quite an experience. Another location that I felt changed by was being in the Monarch sanctuary. It’s one thing to know it exists and see photos but to actually be there was like a spiritual experience. It’s really hard to explain. Your senses are so heightened. I like to call them, ‘right here, right now’ moments. You’re in absolute awe. Surrounded by butterflies everywhere. Even the sound of them, their soft fluttering all around you is really a life changing experience.”

“One scene that stands out to me is when Nova is holding our baby Phoenix in the sanctuary and butterflies are landing all over him. At one point his head is covered and one actually lands on his nose as he awakes to see it opening its wings. We captured it on film but didn’t include it because we felt it didn’t fit into the film. It will be included in the 5 webisodes following, that we created to show more behind the scenes as well as our own perspective of making the film.”

Velcrow estimated the sanctuary at approx. 20 acres and says it’s surprisingly small. He adds, the fact that they fly 3000 miles to this tiny little area for these specific trees at this exact right microclimate for them to stay over the winter and over several generations is amazing.

In terms of a runaway climate change, what are we looking at?

“If we get to the point of a runaway climate change, in just 100 years we could see oceans that are solidified, the shutdown of the great water pumps of the world, a radical and painful reduction of human and species population. The good news is, we’re not at that point yet and we can still turn it around.”

What government interventions would you like to see happen?

“California has been a leader in implementing change. They announced recently that all new homes built must have solar panels installed. We can look at them for inspiration as to what can be done and is being done.  What’s holding us back? We need to just do it. We don’t need to think about it anymore, we need to act. There is a tremendous amount of power that can still be done at a local level. Cities for example, have a huge impact on the environment. We have progressive mayors all over the world coming together to combat climate change. The state of California says they’re not dropping out of the Paris Accord even if Trump has. There are ways of circumventing some of the shortsighted leaders out there and dealing with the issues in a substantial way at a local level.”

Hypothetically, you’re the leader of the free world. What is the first decision on climate change you implement?

“I’d start with universal education, so people can understand the impact of what we’re doing. We don’t want to tell people what we’re doing, we want to do it altogether. Being a good leader means doing what the people want to do, rather than telling them what they’ll be doing. Education is the best place to start. Recognizing ecological principals; the entire global economy needs to change. Moving from a growth society to a sustainable society. Looking for ways to implement that would be huge.”

Out of all the world’s leaders, are there any that you feel are taking more steps than others to combat climate change?

“In British Columbia I’m totally inspired by Elizabeth May.  I think she’s doing great work and has been for a long time. I would love to see the Green Party expanding and getting some traction. It needs to be a full balanced picture where we get away from the notion that there’s environmentalist’s and then there’s the rest of the population. That’s one thing we try to do in the film. You can’t expect environmentalists to solve the problem when we’re all part of it. We need to come together and create green jobs for everyone and a healthy environment for everyone to recognize that its all part of the same picture. Another thing mentioned in the film is that the initiatives or implementations are not caught up in the political cycle, where a new government comes into office and wants to reverse everything.  It’s something that we implement into our daily lives. There’s a growing economic benefit for all clean energy technology.”

Do you think the Industrial Revolution could’ve happened without the use of oil or coal?

“I’m not sure, this is part of our history and part of our revolution. We went from the dirtiest energy sources, like coal and slightly cleaner energy resources and now we’re moving into the next Industrial Revolution, which is the clean energy revolution. The power of oil did create so many technological advances but we really didn’t know we were causing such damage, and now we do.”

Do you believe we live in a Catch 22 situation where we need to use dirty energy to create clean energy?

“We’re in a time of transition. It’s going to take some time to move from one to the other but we’re looking forward to that time now.  We’re actually implementing the new technologies and new sources. There’s going to be some overlap for sure but we are moving away from the old ways.  There’s nobody who isn’t in someway complicit because we’re so enmeshed in a consumer society. It’s really a challenge to break free of it.”

What do you want your audience to walk away with after watching your film?

“They can choose hope as opposed to giving up.  It’s a choice on how they’re going to respond to this crisis.  The crisis is an opportunity for transformation.”

Have you reached out to government with your concerns or to inform them of your film?

“We just had a contact from the BC government go see the film and we’re hoping that it will be something that all members of parliament will get to see. We also want schools and universities to be able to see it.”

How did you finance this film?

“The National Film Board has partnered with us so it’s a co-production between the NFB, Clique Pictures and Transparent Films. Also Lauren Grant of Clique Pictures, and the NFB producers, David Christensen and Bonnie Thompson. We also raised money through broadcast licenses with TVO , The Knowledge Network, Canada Media Fund and the Ontario Media Development Corporation as well as tax credits”.

Where does the film go from here?

“There is a national theatrical release this June. The film will be playing across the country starting in Montreal and Quebec City, then Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver on the 26th, 27, 28th, and July 1st.

In addition, Velcrow and Nova have also developed a workshop that they are offering in conjunction with the film. It’s called, Metamorphosis Journey and it takes participants through the stages of the film. It goes deeper into the themes and explores the process of metamorphosis. For example, starting with chrysalis – the beginnings, where things happen. From there, moving onto crisis – the wake up call. Next is catharsis – which is the processing of the grief and the fear you experience. Lastly, symbiosis – which is mutually enhancing relationships.  They have coaching training which helps them to be able to offer those that want to go deeper into the exploration, personalize the climate crisis and explore what they can do. Eventually there will be an online version of the workshop.

Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami are currently living In Gibson, BC with Velcrow’s mother. They utilize their bicycles as much as possble. They recommend not beating yourself up if clean modes of transportation are not available to you. Electric cars are still very expensive but change is happening. They are having reservations about the type of transportation they’ll be utilizing.  They add, “everyone has to make a decision that’s right for them in terms of their own circumstances. There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint. One way is really asking yourself, when you’re buying something, do you really need it? If you are, can you make it last and can you repurpose it? In an ideal world, it would be cradle to cradle, meaning there’s no need for a landfill.”

For more information, please go to www.metamorphosis.media

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