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Sunday, November 27, 2011


Some 40 international artists join forces in Letters from the Sky, an international experimental film festival for COP17.

In the coming weeks, the globe’s attention will be focused on Durban, South Africa, where world leaders will converge to discuss the most pressing matter of our time - climate change - at COP17.

Launching on November 28 and running until early 2012, the experimental film festival Letters From the Sky will take to South African screens as part of the COPART Cultural Action. Curated by Cape Town-based Kai Lossgott, the festival will showcase a series of film messages from artists and filmmakers from all over the world. The artists were briefed to present personal responses to the effects of climate change on their communities, families and lives.

The festival has been endorsed by the British Council and the City of Cape Town's Climate Smart programme.

Various other COPART projects are being hosted on the Climate Train, which has been presenting a mobile programme of arts, social engagement and film, to highlight climate justice issues in towns along the rail route from Cape Town to Durban since October 28, 2011. The train is scheduled to arrive in Durban on November 28 for the start of COP17. Its activities will continue in Durban's train station and venues around the city. The Department of Environmental Affairs, Indalo Yethu, the South African Environmental Agency, in collaboration with the British Council and COPART, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and the Embassy of the Republic of Germany, are driving the Climate Train initiative.

While the train project aims to document the impact of climate change on local communities it travels to, Lossgott's Letters from the Sky project has called on filmmakers and artists to give a face to the effects of global climate change in all corners of the earth, to make a combined statement in Durban.

As temperatures rise all over the world, millions of people and animals will lose their habitat due to extreme weather events. Mass-migrations continue to place even more strain on densely-populated areas and can be expected to lead to conflict. Human lives, particularly low-income and indigenous communities, are already being affected by heat-related illness and death, respiratory illness, infectious diseases, unaffordable rises in energy costs, and extreme natural disasters. It is ironic that those who are currently most affected are least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause the problem. Emissions in 2010 were at an all time high and show no signs of abating.

The curator’s brief asked artists to simply respond to one question: ‘How does climate change affect your habitat?’

In film letters which take the form of documentary, animation, experimental film, artist's film, video art, screen dance or video poetry, the participating artists were expected to engage with evidence of climate change with personal but researched and well informed responses. Using film as a medium, the complex issues at hand needed to be transformed into dynamic but simple audio-visual experiences with both popular and critical merit.

"Artist's moving images are often ambiguous and open-ended, requiring active participation and mentalisation, in the same way as we read poems or short stories,” says Lossgott. “Many of these films defy easy classification. Some of their authors define themselves as artists, some as filmmakers. Too experimental to find a place in the mainstream commercial film world, yet not always an easy match with the contemporary video art tradition, this selection is sure to raise genre-bending questions not only about climate change but about transmedia art today."

The final selection will be screened concurrently in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg as a nationwide film festival during December 2011.

Letters from the Sky will be shown at artSPACE Durban from November 28 to December 14. Educational edition with discussions will take place on The Climate Train, Durban Train Station from November 28 to December 10.

For schedule, check