Hope & Resilience
For decades, it has been standard practice for issue-based documentaries to hook audiences with fear and outrage around a critical issue, then leave viewers at the very end with an inspirational dose of hope. Research shows that if people feel there is a fighting chance, they will be motivated to take action. If there is some hope of changing things for the better, particularly as a community action, they are more likely to get involved. Unbreathable – The Fight For Healthy Air (2020) (See Case Study) reveals that nearly half of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air and that asthma is the number one health issue for children in the U.S. The film interweaves historical milestones of the Clean Air Act with current day stories of environmental injustice. It ends with a story in Baltimore about a group of high school students who rally their community and succeed in defeating the building of an incinerator. This is followed by a montage of people protesting, voting, coming together to fight for a clean environment. Through decades of despair shines a lifeline of hope that inspires audiences to act.
“. . .we suggest that conservation can be more effective with stakeholder collaboration when communication of negativity and fear is balanced with positivity and hope.”
–Dominic McAfee, University of Adelaide
Our Gorongosa (2019) (See Case Study), provides a similar story of struggle and hope. It weaves together a story of conservation and coexistence. The filmmakers showcase the success story of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique through the voices of local Mozambicans. The goal is to engage and motivate viewers through a positive conservation story that leaves audiences feeling optimistic about change. The film’s presenter, Mozambican elephant ecologist Dominique Gonçalves, inspires young women in the film with a message of courage and hope that, in turn, inspires and engages viewers.