Animated short-film and live-action documentary seeks ‘community resilience’ examples— communities contending with climate change, determined to stay

UNSETTLED is a film about people and communities who are determined to stay.

Is your community working upstream to retrofit, rebuild and adapt to the immediate or emergent effects of climate change? Contact us

The single greatest impact of climate change is human migration.i 

Predictions suggest, by 2050, the effects of climate change will displace as many as 200 million people globally from their homes and communities.ii

That means one in every 45 people in the world will have been displaced by climate change.

Shoreline erosion and coastal flooding, often due to extreme weather events, are among the profound changes threatening community relocations and displacements. 

But UNSETTLED is a film about people and communities who are determined to stay.

While the land and nature grow increasingly agitated by climate change, this film tells the story of people learning, people responding, and people remaining anchored in the places they call home.

Many climate-related human impact stories today focus on urgent and emergent responses (e.g., evacuations), however, this film focuses on upstream attempts to retrofit, rebuild and adapt to growing climate effects therein preventing the need to retreat or resettle from threats.

An animated short-film and live-action documentary film, UNSETTLED shows how communities are contending with the effects of climate change and building community resilience through unity and self-determination. While the meteorological impacts of climate change leave people and communities vulnerable, the best climate mitigation and adaptation tactics are sound policy and preparedness.

UNSETTLED continues the series by producers Kat Frick Miller, Matt LeMay and Jenn Thornhill Verma (LAST FISH, FIRST BOAT, 2021), now in partnership with Indigenous Geographic (Matt LeMay, Crystal Martin-Lapenskie). Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts ($43K) and slated for production in 2022-23, with projected release in 2024, the filmmakers are currently undertaking background research; seeking ‘community resilience’ examples (communities contending with climate change, but determined to stay); and seeking financial and creative partners to enable filming the documentary film portion as well as to produce in multiple languages (e.g., English, French, Inuktitut). Organizational partners already signed on to disseminate the film include: Canadian Geographic, McIntyre Media and Oceana Canada.

This short-film explores universal themes of resilience and shaping identities in the face of adversity — for example, pivoting careers when your world abruptly changes overnight (LAST FISH in its account of the 1992 cod moratorium, which displaced fishers, plant workers and entire communities); and exploring how communities become stronger, together under the threat of shifting land, water and ice (UNSETTLED). 

Canada is a country of coastlines (the largest on the planet)—its magnitude overshadowed only by the knowledge of its coastal people. This film privileges their voices—those with boots in boats in harbours where climate change is happening fast and furiously.

The original premise for this film was to recount stories of leaving coastal outports through community relocation with stories from then (for example, as part of fisheries household resettlement programs – hence, the reference to Woods Island in NL in Miller’s illustrations) and now (today, resettlement continues the world over, under many guises, from economic development to geopolitics to war and, increasingly, climate change). However, in an effort to make this story more contemporary and aligned with proactively responding to the burgeoning threat of climate change, the filmmakers are focused on sharing a story that follows a community or communities taking action to mitigate climate impacts. 

Meet the filmmakers and collaborators

Filmmakers: Crystal Martin-Lapenski, Jenn Thornhill Verma, Kat Frick Miller, Matt LeMay

Partners: Funding provided by: Canada Council for the Arts; Produced by: Indigenous Geographic; Dissemination support from: Canadian Geographic, McIntyre Media, Oceana Canada

Reviewers: April MacDonald, Costas Halavrezos, Dean Bavington, Isabelle Côté, Kimberly Orren, Whitney Moran, Yolande Pottie-Sherman


i. Thirty years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, noted that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption. 

ii. While the estimates of the scale of displacement vary, the most commonly cited human migration projection due to the climate crisis is 200 million people relocated by 2050 by Myers, N., “Environmental Refugees: An emergent security issue”, 13th Economic Forum, Prague, May 2005. Other estimates range anywhere from 25 million to as many as 1 billion. Whatever the estimate, one fact is clear—the “carrying capacity” of large parts of the world will be significantly compromised by climate change.

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