There’s a country that exists at the center of the world, that is one month younger than I am. Kiribati (pronounced Kiribass) exists across the equator and the international dateline, so it exists in all hemispheres. For now. Kiribati is disappearing – and unlike Brigadoon, it won’t return in 100 years. It’ll be underwater by the end of this century – all because of people who don’t live in Kiribati.

Anote’s Ark, the new documentary by Matthieu Rytz, examines some of the steps the local people are taking to preserve their way of life. We see President Anote Tong doing his best to tell the world about the problems in his country – not so people will stop driving cars or change their way of life to stop climate change – in hopes that other countries will help when the time comes. At the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, President Tong’s government negotiates with New Zealand to allow some Kiribati’s citizens to purchase land and emigrate each year.

These are pro-active things he CAN do, because he cannot hold back the ocean.

We also see these changes through the eyes of Sermary, a mother who wins one of the positions to emigrate to New Zealand. Currently, when a storm comes, the ocean floods into her house. She is glad it happens during the day because she worries they might not have been able to get the children out in time had they all been sleeping. These aren’t the kinds of fears most mothers have to face. Worst of all, due to high airfare cost, Sermary must emigrate to New Zealand alone; leaving her 6 young children for 6 months in order to raise the money needed to bring them over.

The face of documentary filmmaking is changing with the advent of drones. Being able to see the Earth from above is showing us what we’ve been doing to it – how we’ve been changing it, without regard for natural processes. Being able to sweep over the ocean and see these islands from above made me realize how small they are. The beautiful Kiribati islands are not something we should be willing to sacrifice for a big steak or a bigger car. The people of Kiribati haven’t given up, but they’re being realistic. President Anote Tong may have been able to find a place for some of them to go; but maintaining their way of life and culture is something the rest of us have to be willing to support. He may be able to build them an Ark, but eventually it’ll need somewhere to land.

Tuesday, May 1, 6:30 PM Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Wednesday, May 2, 10:15 AM TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, May 4, 1 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox