The headliner of Bohemians’ first film festival is visually spectacular and very engaging, says Sean McCabe, climate justice officer with the Phibsboro-based football club.
But Neptune Frost, a dystopian Afrofuturist musical, is also all about power structures, gender, class, and the links between colonialism and climate injustice, says McCabe.
“It’s about authoritarianism, challenging authoritarianism,” he says.
It sets the tone for the festival and its overall theme of climate justice, McCabe says, and how it’s time for wealthy countries to start looking at themselves and thinking about who they owe money to.
“Those extraterritorial obligations that countries have in terms of how they generated their wealth,” says McCabe.
The Line Up
The launch of the film festival, and with it the Irish premiere of Neptune Frost, is scheduled for 8 September in the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield.
The festival team selected that film as the main event because of its themes, McCabe said recently, sat outside in Smithfield Square wearing a black Bohs zip up with white stripes down the arms.
“That is colonialism. The extraction of labour, the extraction of resources,” he said. “It’s that extractivism that is at the root of climate change as well.”
They also picked the film because it is hugely entertaining, he says.
The entire lineup of the festival, scheduled to run 8–11 September, is designed to have a widespread appeal. “You have to have fun,” says McCabe smiling. “People respond to things that are fun. They don’t respond to things that are going to make them miserable.”
Neptune Frost is set in the future in a village in Rwanda and in a coltan mine in neighbouring Burundi. The mining of coltan involves incredible exploitation, including sending children down the mines, says McCabe.
“That is in every one of our phones,” he says, lifting his mobile from the table. “It is a horrendous injustice.”
Neptune Frost, could help to spark a conversation, which McCabe says is fundamental to climate justice, one around reparations for colonialism and slavery.
There are around a billion people in the world who still have no access to electricity. If they seek to meet that need through fossil fuels, the world is doomed, he says.
A just transition to a greener economy means funding those countries to leapfrog fossil fuels entirely and move straight to renewable energy, he says.
And wealthy countries looking at who they owe. “The unlocking of the climate crisis has to be linked to what is owed, historically,” says McCabe.
Another film in the festival, The Ants and the Grasshopper, is about a Malawian woman who teaches Americans how to farm in the face of climate change, says McCabe.
Some of the countries along the Equator have been the first to feel the effects of climate change, he says, and have had to quickly learn to cope.
“So they are way more advanced than us in terms of adaptation,” he says.
That film is important for many reasons, says McCabe. “That sort of paternalistic approach that the [global] north has always taken to Africa and other places is being flipped on its head.”
“And you hear from the people who have been affected most and contributed least … to climate change,” he says.
The festival also includes a brand new National Geographic documentary, called The Territory, which launches on the Monday before the festival. “It’s about Amazonian communities fighting back,” says McCabe.
On the Saturday, 10 September, there will be a special matinee of A Bug’s Life, and afterwards a video promoting children’s participation in Ireland’s citizen’s assembly on biodiversity loss. The festival organisers hope to run buses from direct provision centres to the cinema for that, he says.
The festival also includes a slightly off-topic screening of In League with Gaddafi. The documentary tells the story of the time in 1989 when Bohs and St Patrick’s Athletic went to play Libya.
It is directed by Bohs member Kevin Branigan. “It’s a bizarre story. It has everything,” says McCabe.
On the Saturday evening they are showing Mad Max Fury Road, because it’s a brilliant film, he says. There will be DJs playing afterwards, he says. There are activities planned for the Sunday too, with details to be sorted.
Football and a Just Transition
The Bohemians film festival is part of a much wider programme of work, managed by McCabe in his role as the football club’s climate justice officer.
“Sports and football, in particular, has an incredible role to play as custodians of their community,” says McCabe.
“The origins of football are within working-class communities, all over Europe, where people saw themselves reflected in the club and their values reflected in the club,” he says.
In most cases – apart from big Premier League clubs – the fans are still the reason the clubs exist, he says.
So those football clubs are well placed to push for climate justice that benefits their communities and demand that climate action should mean a fairer distribution of wealth.
“It is not about atomising your carbon footprint and making you as an individual responsible for saving the planet,” says McCabe. “It’s about you demanding your rights in the face of the climate crisis and demanding action that spreads the benefits of the change.”
If people see measures meant to slow climate change as harming their interests, they will start to vote for people who don’t want to bring in those changes, says McCabe.
“If you want change over the long term you need massive public support and you don’t get massive public support by undertaking actions that increase the wealth of a minority and make life harder for a majority,” he says.
The time is ripe for a film festival on the theme of climate justice, he says. “A lot more people are considering the environment as a social context, looking at the impact – whether it’s environmental harm, pollution, or climate change, is having on people’s lives.”
“There is also an increasing awareness of the fact that what we do to counteract climate change or counteract environmental damage can also harm people’s lives,” he says.
A lot of people have moved past the era of seeing nature as separate from humans. Now we realise that not only are we part of nature but also that we have had a catastrophic impact on it, he says.
“It’s really important that there is a platform for these films to get out and for a platform to exist to encourage these films to be made,” says McCabe.
The Bohemian Environmental Justice Film Festival (BEFF) hosted by Bohemian Football Club, runs from 8 to 11 September 2022.