The Magnitude Of All Things – Sydney Film Festival Review

The Psychological Impact Of Climate Change

I was very excited to get back to the cinema this year for the Sydney Film Festival. The smell of the popcorn, the red of the seats, the face masks. Well maybe the last one is new but I’m happy to oblige in order to view new films on the big screen in person once again.

To kick off my viewing this year I went to see the artful documentary from filmmaker Jennifer Abbott, The Magnitude of All Things. Premiering at Vancouver International Film Festival in September 2020, in the film Abbott takes a look at the emotional impact of climate change and aligns it with the loss of her sister. With interviews from activists and first nations comunitees from around the world she gives us both a global and personal look into the grief of losing what is so close to us.

Director, Editor, Sound Designer, Co-Producer; Jennifer Abbott

Going into the cinema I certainly wasn’t expecting what was an incredibly emotional film on two fronts. First, the recreations of Abbott’s memories of her and her sister told beautifully in soft cinematic visuals accompanied by calm narration of letters written by her sister in her last moments. And secondly through the parallel story of our hurting planet told through interviews with those experiencing it the closest revealing the true devastation that climate change is having on us as humans.

The films core reaches directly to the viewers heart and as a very personal piece it is honestly hard to review. I am even now struggling to gather my thoughts surrounding what I have experienced. Not unlike the reality of climate change which is hard to digest and put into words. The Magnitude Of All Things is a complex film that exists simultaneously as a documentary, exposing the reality of our situation, and as a visual curation of the filmmakers personal experience with her sister. So it cannot solely be labeled a documentary bending the rules of filmmaking and art. The film documents lived experience which is a complex topic in and of itself and as such the full impact wasn’t really revealed at first watch. It was only hours later when I had sat with it for a while that I began to fully appreciate what I’d seen.

As a film with a run time of only 1 hour and 25 minutes it did drag a little for me and seemed to end a few times before reaching the actual conclusion. The dense subject matter was most likely the contributor to this so I would avoid watching the film if you are not in the right headspace. However I am glad that I added this film to my watching list for this years festival as it has given me plenty to runimerate on. As someone who loves and feels more alive when surrounded by nature the feelings being discussed in the film ignited a sense of empathy within me, but I recognise my own bias here. This does make it hard to say how this film would be recieved by anyone who doesn’t already care about the planet.

A central theme to the films discussions around climate change is hope and whether it is people’s hope for the future that gets them to act or in fact the lack of hope that prompts them into action. For many of those interviewed, which included first nations communities from Australia and Brazil, it was in fact loss of hope that truly spurred them into action. The film also includes interviews with activists like Greta Thunberg and Derrick Pottle and features the devastation of the bush fires in the Hunter Valley, and the Coral Reef bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. All are put into perspective by those who have truly experienced the loss of these environments personally.

The whole experience of watching this film was like attending a wake in that it was equal parts sad and illuminating. As we come to terms with the reality of death we can find ourselves feeling more alive and ultimately whilst I left the cinema feeling a weighted grief for the planet I also felt more connected to it. As with any art piece The Magnitude Of All Things is open for the audience to take away what you need from it, but it is hard to deny the potency of its story and message.

You can still catch The Magnitude Of All Things at the Sydney Film Festival
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