in Bowermaster 2019 · Culture 2019 · EN · Politics 2019 · YOUTUBE 2019 47 views / 7 comments
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* Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world. Jean-Luc Godard

Do movies matter? I’ve made twenty documentary films, almost all with strong environmental messages. While it’s hard to pinpoint just what impact a doc has, in the past five years I’ve made three films about the cons of fracking, focused on laws and personal experiences in New York, California and across the United States. As the public and business moves towards a clean energy future, have these films influenced the public, or policy?

Jon Bowermaster is six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council and award-winning writer and filmmaker. Bowermaster was recently named one of a dozen Ocean Heroes by the NGS. Author of twelve books, he is also the writer, director and producer of twenty documentary films, most recently “Antarctica 3D, On the Edge,” “Sink or Swim, Learning the Crawl in the Maldives,” “After the Spill, Louisiana Water Stories, Part II,” “The Hudson, River At Risk” and, with producing partner Mark Ruffalo, “Dear Governor Brown” and “Dear President Obama, The Clean Energy Revolution Is Now.” Bowermaster lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

  • Film has a uniquely powerful ubiquity within human culture. In 2009, across major territories, there were over 6.8 billion cinema admissions (compared against a world population of roughly the same number) creating global box office revenues of over US$30 billion. The convergent nature of film creates consumption across a number of channels.
  • In the same year combined DVD and Blu-Ray sales in the United States, Canada and European Union alone were US$32.5 billion (amounting to over 1.1 billion units sold). When you start to then consider revenues and audience figures from those who consume digitally, via television, repeat view content they already own and view through the highly illegal but vast black-market in films, the figures become truly staggering.

The direct economic impact of film is clear, but the effect to the wider economy is also significant. The UK House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee– in a 2002 report on The British Film Industry stated, “…Of the 23 million people who visited the UK in 2001 — spending approximately £11.3billion — VisitBritain (formerly the British Tourist Authority) estimates that approximately 20% visited the UK because of the way it is portrayed in films or on television.

The flow-on effect from film (i.e. the use of services and purchase of goods by the industry) is thought to be that for every £1 spent on film, there is a £1.50 benefit to the economy.”

Cinema has become a powerful vehicle for culture, education, leisure and propaganda. In a 1963 report for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization looking at Indian Cinema and Culture, the author (Baldoon Dhingra) quoted a speech by Prime Minister Nehru who stated, “…the influence in India of films is greater than newspapers and books combined.” Even at this early stage in cinema, the Indian film-market catered for over 25 million people a week- considered to be just a ‘fringe’ of the population.

Contemporary research has also revealed more profound aspects to film’s impact on society. In a 2005 paper by S C Noah Uhrig (University of Essex, UK) entitled, “‘Cinema is Good for You: The Effects of Cinema Attendance on Self-Reported Anxiety or Depression and ‘Happiness’” the author describes how, “The narrative and representational aspects of film make it a wholly unique form of art. Moreover, the collective experience of film as art renders it a wholly distinct leisure activity. The unique properties of attending the cinema can have decisively positive effects on mental health.

Cinema attendance can have independent and robust effects on mental wellbeing because visual stimulation can queue a range of emotions and the collective experience of these emotions through the cinema provides a safe environment in which to experience roles and emotions we might not otherwise be free to experience. The collective nature of the narrative and visual stimulation makes the experience enjoyable and controlled, thereby offering benefits beyond mere visual stimulation. Moreover, the cinema is unique in that it is a highly accessible social art form, the participation in which generally cuts across economic lines.

At the same time, attending the cinema allows for the exercise of personal preferences and the human need for distinction. In a nutshell, cinema attendance can be both a personally expressive experience, good fun, and therapeutic at the same time. In a rather groundbreaking study, Konlaan, Bygren and Johansson found that frequent cinema attendees have particularly low mortality risks –those who never attended the cinema had mortality rates nearly 4 times higher than those who visit the cinema at least occasionally (Konlaan, Bygren, and Johansson 2000).

Their finding holds even when other forms of social engagement are controlled, suggesting that social engagement specifically in an artistic milieu is important for human survival.”

So how has cinema grown to become such a preeminent part of human culture?

In this exclusive interview we talk to Tom Sherak, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (best known for their Academy Awards, also referred to as “Oscars“). We look at the role of film in society and how it has grown to become such a ubiquitous art. We discuss what makes a ‘great’ movie, some history of film, the economics and future of the industry, and how the internet and other technologies such as CGI and 3D have affected the movie business.

The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at:  TEDx Talks



  1. If audiences are getting tired of the formulaic story arcs of blockbuster movies, then there’s a safe haven in political documentaries, which are enjoying a renaissance.

  2. Documentaries tend not to do well at the box office but, nevertheless, An Inconvenient Sequel was ushered out with the bombastic assistance of superstar celebrities such as Bono and Pharrell Williams who promised to #BeInconvenient in a YouTube video

  3. And given our current climate of toxic, unpredictable politics, where each day brings a new and increasingly horrifying plot twist and every election result is a shock finale, it is little wonder that the political documentary is finding its form once again.

  4. Indeed and in addition to that nationalists cannot bring themselves to believe in AGW even if they had the wit to do so because by definition that would require collective action from the nations of the world and they are far too busy cooking up absurd conspiracy theories about the EUSSR (See also Eurabia) and the UN measuring us all up for FEMA camps or some other nonsense.

  5. For several years now, feature length docus have had multiple international festivals to find buyers but they have now been presented with a lucrative platform on Netflix and potentially other internet platforms.

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