23-year-old Toronto filmmaker heads to UN climate summit to shoot documentary

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Our planet is changing. Our journalism too. This story is part of a CBC News initiative called Our changing planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.


Kasha Sequoia Slavner was only 15 when she persuaded her mother, Marla, to let her take a year off to shoot a crowdfunded documentary.

The resulting film, The Sunrise Storyteller, was shot in part during a six-month trip the couple took through East Africa and Southeast Asia. It profiles young people working on creative solutions to global problems in their communities.

The independently produced film won 30 awards and has been screened at over 60 film festivals around the world.

“I really wanted to highlight these stories of resilience and triumph over adversity because they empower me as a (…) young activist,” said Slavner, now 23.

“I thought more people could hear stories like this.”

1.5 degrees of COP26

Slavner boards a plane Wednesday to travel to Glasgow, Scotland to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 as part of a filming mission for a second independent documentary – 1.5 degrees of peace.

She will join thousands of world leaders, politicians, climate activists, businessmen and more, who gather there to develop plans to reduce global greenhouse gas production and achieve net zero emissions. The goal is to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 C.

The Conference of the Parties (COP), as it is known, meets annually and is the global decision-making body established in the early 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and climate agreements. subsequent.

  • Do you have questions about COP26 or climate science, politics or policy? Email us: [email protected] Your contribution helps inform our coverage.

The second project of the young filmmaker combines her passions for the environment and activism for peace.

“The concept … examines the intrinsic links between peace and climate justice and how we can build bridges between these two movements because if we continue to act in silos, we will not be as … productive as we are. let’s hope for progressive climate action, ”she said.

Slavner pointed out that, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 14 of the 25 countries considered most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also experiencing some form of violent conflict.

While on the pitch in Glasgow, Slavner said she plans to capture a behind-the-scenes look at young activists crafting demands for world leaders and staging protests, such as a global protest scheduled for Saturday. Additionally, she hopes to interview those most affected by both climate change and conflict.

“I really want to create a space and a platform for young people who see the effects of the climate crisis and the effects of conflict to share their own stories,” Slavner said.

Slavner produced her first documentary, The Sunrise Storyteller, as a teenager. The film has since won 30 awards and has been shown at film festivals around the world. (Submitted by Kasha Sequoia Slavner)

The making of a militant filmmaker

It was childhood trips to the beaches of Toronto with her mother throwing rocks into Lake Ontario that Slavner says sparked her love for the natural world.

Around the age of 10, watching former US Vice President Al Gore’s climate change documentary An inconvenient truth made him understand that everything was in danger.

“I have always felt a very deep connection with the environment,” Slavner said. “And … I always grew up knowing that our climate was in some way in danger.”

WATCH | Here is what young activists want to see at COP26:

What do young activists want Canada to commit to at COP26?

Climate activists Kayah George, Rosie Bleyer and Aliénor Rougeot join Power & Politics to discuss what they expect from political leaders at COP26. 8:54

At 14, Slavner followed in her mother’s footsteps and embarked on activism when she joined the Canadian Women’s Voice for Peace, a feminist social justice organization.

Since then, she has visited UN headquarters in New York seven times as a young delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, served as an advisor to the Canadian Council of Young Feminists and was selected as a global change agent, according to her online. organic.

Slavner credits her mother’s social justice work for inspiring her and the mentoring of documentary filmmaker Liz Marshall for teaching her the ropes of visual storytelling.

Slavner said that by showcasing the “resilience” of young people in her new film, she hopes to inspire others not to rely solely on world leaders and governments to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, but to do themselves change.

“The narrative around the climate crisis can be pretty bleak,” Slavner said.

“But what gives me hope is the power of such resilient young people who continue to show themselves despite the challenges we constantly face.”


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