This post is about one of the ten short films in the Open University/BBC Creative Climate short film competition, made by students from UK film schools. You can see them all here on the OU’s Youtube channel.
Eats Shoots Leaves by Daniel Brierley, National Film and Television School
A couple of Panda suits and an Attenborough soundalike prove that issues of consumption and population can be as entertaining as they are important. Indeed Eats Shoots and Leaves may initiate a whole new online genre. Dan explains that:
‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ is an attempt to get across a message about environment, consumption and population in a funny and irreverent way. It’s a serious subject but I feel that people don’t respond well to didactic films and I wanted people to enjoy the film first and realise they’d learnt something afterwards.
I’ve always been a great fan of nature documentaries because of the access they get. Imagine if there was a television show recording a human couple reproducing (well, there probably is on C5 somewhere). But I wanted to illustrate how important population is and so it seemed important to show a pair of giant pandas going through their agony of seduction so as to contrast this with the ease in which humans reproduce.
In order to make it realistic I filmed in a handheld nature doc style, with long takes. I spent all of my budget on giant Panda costumes, and then got a David Attenborough sound-a-like to provide the voice (I have a very nice handwritten letter from Mr. Attenborough politely declining participation).
I was lucky enough to have (film actor) Olivia Williams provide the voice of Madame Panda and her husband Rashan Stone stepped in to play Monsieur Panda too. I wanted to give my Pandas a voice, to show exactly how much their natural environment is being encroached, as global population increases.
Comedy and drama have played an enormous role in helping society work through some of the big topics over the last fifty years. It is interesting – maybe even disturbing – that there are so few instances of comic approaches to environmental issues. It is very difficult to cope with any issue that you can’t laugh about. Daniel’s natural history spoof takes full advantage of the opportunities offered by taking a panda’s eye view of human reproduction.
NOTE: Important Information: this is a comic film, and the statements contained within are not intended to form the basis of natural history knowledge. Specifically: Panda erections do not last seven years.
However it is the case that the combination of increasing human numbers and high-consumption western lifestyles are threatening natural habitats and accelerating hazardous greenhouse gas emissions. Laughing at ourselves may be one of the best ways to better know ourselves and prepare to make any changes that might be needed.