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Production   /  Yaara Bou Melhem

Solastalgia – Journeys Through a Scarred Landscape

SOLASTALGIA journeys through an Australian continent - pockmarked with mine sites that have upended our notion of home.

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Impact areas

ENVIRONMENT

HEALTH & WELLBEING

HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE

INDIGENOUS

YOUTH & EDUCATION

Crew

  • DIRECTOR Yaara Bou Melhem

  • PRODUCER Ivan O'Mahoney & Yaara Bou Melhem

Synopsis

DURATION: 85 MINUTES

The Hunter Valley region in south-eastern Australia was once known as the ‘Tuscany of the South’. But in just the last generation, it turned into a densely cratered moonscape as the region became a mecca for mega open-cut coal mines.

It has led to the diagnosis of a new sickness afflicting the Hunter and other communities who experience monumental alterations to their environment – ‘Solastalgia’. It is the feeling you have when you’re home but experience a nostalgia for a place that no longer exists.

The Hunter is just one example of a nationwide problem. 80,000 abandoned mines dot the Australian landscape, many burdening future generations with their long-term environmental and financial impacts.

Shot across the continent, 'Solastalgia' is an emotive journey into the lives of those whose sense of place has been upended by mining, exploring how the past interweaves with the present. It shows how the problems caused by abandoned mine sites are supercharged by the emergence of contemporary mega mines, including fossil fuel extracting sites that are fast becoming stranded assets, with devastating legacies.

It can seem like an intractable problem, but 'Solastalgia' will also highlight the clever solutions that abound… should we care to acknowledge and embrace them.

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  • $500,000.00

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  • June 2023

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

This film centres on universal themes told through a local prism. While mining does take place worldwide, it occupies a unique place in Australia as its largest economic driver, representing one-tenth of GDP. The 'lucky' country is the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels and the biggest exporter of coal and gas. But carbon resources extraction is limited to the next two to three decades with increasing international calls for states to decarbonise by 2050. The Reserve Bank of Australia stated in 2021 that Australian coal-related investments are at risk of becoming ‘stranded assets’ as the world's appetite for coal tapers off. Industry insiders are warning that without stronger regulatory frameworks, the Australian public will be left with the huge financial, social, and environmental costs dealing with the fallout of abandoned fossil fuel industries. The window for action to oblige (fossil fuel) mining companies to act is closing fast as their sites are devalued.

Impact

What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Most Australians are unaware of the number of abandoned mining sites across the country and how the psychological, environmental and financial burdens they place on the community are being supercharged with modern operating mines. This film aims to address that and centre the emotional impact mining operations have on the people who live near them to create empathy and promote meaningful change through citizen-driven political pressure.

Outcomes

What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Time and time again, experts in mining rehabilitation we've interviewed for this project have told us that without public pressure, there will be no political will to change current regulations that allow mining operators to leave behind huge mining voids despite community expectations of more extensive rehabilitation. Furthermore, abandoned legacy sites continue to create havoc for communities that live near them, with state and territory governments often citing lack of funds to restore sites that ordinarily leave incredible environmental and health impacts. Change cannot happen without first raising awareness that this problem exists and that it could become an even bigger problem as fossil fuel extracting sites come offline or become stranded assets. Sustainable pathways forward will also be illuminated.

Activities

How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

By getting as wide an audience and as much publicity as possible - we want this to be a watercooler film.

Stakeholders

How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

The Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism & Ideas is backing the project. Much of the development work and research done for Solastalgia has been as part of Yaara's recent residency with the organisation.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Bring public pressure to bear on corporations and governments for systemic change to the way mining companies operate and the legislation that governs them.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

In an ideal world, when legislation is passed that forces mining companies to rehabilitate legacy mine sites and establishes far greater obligations in this regard on existing and future mines.