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The climate emergency demands action, but what kind? Can engaging with land and the earth be political? Can it be escapist? Facing these questions today, what can we learn from an earlier moment of ecological and social activism?

There’s a fascinating crop of filmmakers who turned to the land in the 70s and 80s. They weren’t very glamorous. They were more likely to be found knee-deep in compost than on the red carpet. I want to tell you their stories because they planted seeds that could help climate justice grow today.

Who were these filmmakers? And do their films indicate how we might engage with the earth and find the systemic change that the climate emergency demands? Or do they document escapist retreats? The films are both visionary and short-sighted, sometimes political, and sometimes romanticist. This tension resonates with our present, as we face the challenge of imagining futures that are both brave and realistic.

Becca Voelcker is a writer and researcher based in London. She earned her PhD at Harvard University in 2021, writing about the politics of place in film and visual culture. Growing up bilingually in rural North Wales, where her own parents had relocated in search of a greener lifestyle in the late 1970s, she became interested in differences between the country and the city, and moved between central London, Tokyo, New York, and Cambridge over the following decade. She speaks Welsh, Japanese, and Spanish. Voelcker is currently a Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, where she studies architectural and artistic responses to the climate emergency. She combines research with film curating and programming projects, and podcasts. Her writing appears in Screen, MIRAJ, Film Comment, Frieze, and Sight & Sound. She is a current finalist in the BBC’s New Generation Thinkers program. Twitter: BeccaVoelcker

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