Kokota: Moncton Filmmaker Creates Award Winning Documentary

The short form documentary Kokota: The Islet of Hope has been making the rounds at film festivals and environmental events the past few months, and is now launching a New Brunswick-wide tour with the Tideland Doc Fest in celebration of it’s win at the DC Environmental Film Festival for Best Short On Sustainability. Today they’ve released the official trailer.

Directed by Moncton filmmaker Craig Norris of Videoband productions, the short film tells the story of the revitalization of Kokota, a small islet off the coast of Tanzania in eastern Africa.

Filmed with a straightforward documentary approach, with a mix of narration and interviews, much of the film is presented in subtitled Swahili as the local villagers give their personal accounts of events. Pairing these firsthand stories with striking visuals of changes both positive and negative that have impacted the island, Norris paints a captivating portrait of life on the island.

A tiny community in the Zanzibar archipelago, Kokota’s growing population, coupled with climate change and deforestation have caused shortages in water and food and placed heavy economic strains on families. Seeing their plight, local community development worker Mbarouk Mussa Omar teamed up with Canadian volunteer Jeff Schnurr to found Community Forests International, an environmental group dedicated to helping the islanders adapt to their changing environment.

While the pair had prior experience with reforestation campaigns on other nearby islands, Kokota: Islet of Hope documents the various steps taken to revitalize the island and help the villagers adapt to their new circumstances, including the building of a new school, building a water reservoir, the instillation of solar panels for renewable energy, and the use of more sustainable farming practices. Throughout it all, Norris makes it clear that while the funding, techniques, and the initial team may have come from outside the island, the positive changes were brought about by the community themselves, setting an example for people across the world.

The environmentalist statement the documentary seeks to make is straightforward: that “adapting to climate change doesn’t have to lead to a less comfortable lifestyle.” By showing how the villagers were able to all pitch to improve both their lives and the environment, it’s made clear how their example can be followed elsewhere to help more communities handle climate change.

With a short runtime of roughly 30 minutes, Kokota: The Islet of Hope is an easy documentary to get through, but one with an important message. Straight to the point, and clear with its intent, Kokota helps not only raise awareness of a small community’s plight and success, but also applies it as a lesson to the broader issue of global warming. A well-put-together documentary, Kokota is definitely worth checking out if it’s coming to your town.

Kokota: The Islet of Hope will be on tour in New Brunswick this week with the Tideland Doc Fest with community screenings in Sackville on Feb 8th, Moncton on February 9th, Fredericton on February 15th, and Saint John on February 16th.