One year since Victoria’s ‘Black Summer’ fires were contained, a new documentary investigates the underlying environmental causes and emerging local solutions, told through the voices of East Gippsland residents who survived the heat, smoke and flames.
The 25-minute film, Beyond the Burning, premieres at Transitions Film Festival this week, twelve months since the CFA announced the fire threat was officially over.
Commissioned by conservation group Environment Victoria, the film highlights how a hotter climate has reduced rainfall and dried out the forests of East Gippsland, creating the conditions for more frequent and severe bushfires.
“The pandemic interrupted any chance for a serious, national discussion about the link between the bushfires, climate change and logging practices and we’re launching this film to draw attention back to these issues,” said Greg Foyster, Media and Content Manager at Environment Victoria.
Among other stories, the documentary follows ecologist Rena Gaborov as she returns to her favourite patch of rainforest – normally too wet to burn – only to find it incinerated. Wildlife carers offer shelter to injured animals, and beekeeper Ian Cane explains how destructive logging practices have contributed to the frequency and intensity of the recent fires.
From this tragedy emerge local solutions. Traditional Owners the Gunaikurnai people survey the regenerating bush for totem species, conduct cultural burns and begin the long process of taking back management of the land.
And renewable energy companies install battery and solar systems to make remote communities more resilient to future climate disasters, accelerating the shift from coal and gas to clean energy.
“This film evolved from the initial challenge of getting real stories of people directly impacted by the fires out to a wide audience in ways the mainstream media either missed or simply moved on from, especially after COVID hit,” said the film’s scriptwriter and interviewer James Norman.
“From speaking with Indigenous communities, wildlife shelter workers and local people we hear raw stories of surviving a catastrophe, but also inspiring examples of real, positive change that emerged from the horror of the fires.”
Director David Franjic says the film combines footage shot on mobile phones during the fires with more cinematic imagery of burned landscapes and recovering wildlife.
“We wanted to allow space for people to tell their firsthand accounts of the fires but also what they see as the causes and solutions,” he said.
Beyond the Burning premieres at Transitions Film Festival on 23 & 26 February.
The following people who appear in the film are available for media interviews on request: bushfire survivors who lost their homes, ecologist, wildlife carers, beekeeper who lost hives in the fires, traditional owners, renewable energy companies.
EVENT DETAILS – TRANSITIONS FILM FESTIVAL
In person premiere at MPavilion, Melbourne, on 23 February (photos available)
Greg Foyster, Media and Content Manager at Environment Victoria