You are here: Films Fall 2015 How to Change the World

How to Change the World

E-mail Print PDF

Mon Oct 5, Gibsons Heritage Playhouse. An intimate portrait of the most influential environmental activist movement in history: Greenpeace. UK, 2015, 110 min, Directed by Jerry Rothwell

 Group portrait of Greenpeace setting sail for Amchitka


“In Vancouver, in 1971, we have the biggest concentration of tree huggers, draft dodgers, shit disturbing unionists, radical students, garbage dump stoppers, freeway fighters, pot smokers, vegetarians, nudists, Buddhists, fish preservationists and back-to-the-landers on the planet. And we are all hunted by the spectre of a dead world.”
— Robert Hunter, one of the founders of Greenpeace.

In 1971, a group of friends sail into a nuclear test zone, and their protest captures the world’s imagination. Using never before seen archive that brings their extraordinary world to life, How To Change The World is the story of the pioneers who founded Greenpeace and defined the modern green movement.

Greenpeace was founded on tight knit, passionate friendships forged in Vancouver in the early 1970s. Together they pioneered a template for environmental activism which mixed daring iconic feats and worldwide media: placing small rubber inflatables between harpooners and whales, blocking ice-breaking sealing ships with their bodies, spraying the pelts of baby seals with dye to make them valueless in the fur market. The group had a prescient understanding of the power of media, knowing that the advent of global mass communications meant that the image had become a more effective tool for change than the strike or the demonstration. But by the summer of 1977, Greenpeace Vancouver was suing Greenpeace San Francisco and the organization had become a victim of its own anarchic roots – saddled with large debts and frequent in-fighting.

How To Change The World draws on interviews with the key players and hitherto unseen archive footage which brings these extraordinary characters and their intense, sometimes eccentric and often dangerous world alive. Somehow the group transcended the contradictions of its members to undertake some of the bravest and most significant environmental protests in history.

The film spans the period from the first expedition to enter the nuclear test zone in 1971 through the first whale and seal campaigns, and ends in 1979, when, victims of their own success, the founders gave away their central role to create Greenpeace International. At its heart is Bob Hunter, a charismatic journalist who had written his first science fiction comics at the age of 10. Somehow Hunter managed to bind together the ‘mystics and the mechanics’ into a group with a single purpose, often at huge cost to himself. The story is framed by his first person narrative, drawn from his writings and journals about the group, voiced alongside animations based on his own comics.

"In the vaults of the Greenpeace archives in Amsterdam lie some 1500 silver cans of 16mm film, mostly unopened since the 1970s, which hold the record of a unique attempt to effect global change..... What drew me to the story of the Greenpeace founders is that it is the story of all nascent groups." — Director Jerry Rothwell.

Film website:

This film was one of the audience top ten favourites at the Hot Docs International Documentary Fim Festival, where it premiered in April .


HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD - Trailer from Docs & Pieces on Vimeo.