Larry Engel is an Emmy award-winning producer, writer, director, and cinematographer now in his fifth decade of filmmaking that spans all seven continents.
He’s worked on over 250 projects for domestic and international broadcasters and cable channels.
Currently, Engel is an associate professor at American University’s School of Communication, associate director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and filmmaker-in-residence with the Investigative Reporting Workshop.
Larry said to Egypt Today that the film medium generally whether it's documentary, public service announcements, commercials and even social media, are all encompassing in terms of raising awareness about the climate change crisis and are considered effective ways to be able to communicate climate crisis effectively.
‘’Film is ubiquitous because it's everywhere whether it's on TV, or streaming via digital platforms’’ Larry recounted. For Larry movies are an important and critical medium for communicating and sharing the deep concern of especially youth about climate change.
Larry added that regardless of the film genre or topic, a film can be a good film effective and capture the attention of an audience, or it can be a pretty lousy film.
‘’ So when I go to the theater or when I'm watching a movie on one of the streaming services, the topic may sound really interesting but the film itself maybe dreadful. ‘’An Inconvenient Truth, the big-screen adaptation of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s slide-show lecture about the perils of global warming, won Academy Awards for documentary feature and best song despite it is a way not terribly compelling, I think it received Oscars because the Academy acknowledged that this topic needed to be recognized, it needed to be known, and therefore it was effective’’ Larry said.
Ted Talks can be remarkably compelling and it's just the person on a stage with dramatic lighting.
From Larry point of view it's the way that the story is told may make for a compelling climate crisis or climate change documentary.''
‘’ Broadly our role in environmental filmmaking, wildlife filmmaking and conservation filmmaking is recognizing the importance of reaching a diverse audience, which means then that we need to have more people, more diverse voices on both sides of the camera. And I think that will help with making strong stories about climate change’’ Larry said.
Larry explained that Center for Environmental Filmmaking was founded in 2005 with a focus on environmental filmmaking and wild life filmmaking.
Now the center is paying more attention to environmental justice, environmental racism, and decolonizing the practice of documentary and environmental filmmaking.
‘’We are participating with several outside organizations to empower local people, local communities in environmental and wildlife filmmaking with a current emphasis on Africa’’ Larry added.
Larry admitted that the documentary that he considers to be a milestone in his career is a film for National Geographic that he performed many years ago in the 1990s, titled ‘’Height of Courage: The Norman Vaughn story’’.
‘’ It was a documentary about Norman Vaughn who was an 86 year old adventurer living out of Alaska. So Norman went to Antarctica as a dog musher, and he led a dog teen to an area that was near the South Pole, so basically 66 years after Norman was in Antarctica, he had the opportunity to lead an expedition back to Antarctica’’ Larry said.
Larry added that this movie it was once in a lifetime experience.
Larry said that he worked on a film in 2009 for a public television station.
‘’We did an episode called Bangladesh Water World. And it was the first time that the United Nations ever declared a climate change refugee status to the people of Bangladesh. It was the first, that was a long time ago. And we interviewed experts in Bangladesh who predicted where we are right now, where we have climate change refugees who are immigrating from water laden, Countries lands that are not viable for human habitation.’’
Larry explained that in 2009, he also published a book with a British friend about sustainable filmmaking.
‘’ I recognized probably from the 1900s through the 2000s when I was going around the world filming environmental stories or wildlife stories that the world was really changing, so we published the code of best practices for sustainable filmmaking in 2009’’ Larry said.
Larry admitted that the climate crisis is everywhere.
‘’Mother Earth doesn't care about us, she's just rotating around the sun. What we do to protect ourselves and other species is critical and it's critical right now’’ Larry admitted.
Larry said that youth are taking care of this planet better than his generation or generations before.
For Larry the role of youth in climate change is really simple as they have no choice.
‘’ I will not be impacted in the same way as my children, my grandsons and youth in general so they have to lead the revolution. They will need to take power in countries around the world and wield the civic duty that we ought to be wielding right now. But they can't do this because politicians and policy makers are greedy and they don't give a crap’’
Larry said that youth across the world are really leading the climate change scene while disgusting their elders for not taking responsibility. ‘’After World War II, many films reflected that adults gave up and it was up to the youth, the young people, the children, to be responsible. It's the children who take on the responsibilities because the adults have abandoned their responsibilities to their children, to their society, so it's up to youth’’ Larry added.
Larry admitted that we have hindsight, but we don't apply it to the future. We ignore it and we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We're not that different from other species. Evolution is based on mutations, but that doesn't make us better than any other species on the planet, in fact, in terms of biomass, the most successful creatures on earth are not humans but beetles.
‘’ My ultimate hope is to manage to save our planet, cooperate together as countries and people to save ourselves through saving our planet’’ Larry said.
‘’A direct message from a humble filmmaker and professor to the international climate community is make the change right now, the world is literally burning up. My message to political leaders is that you have an obligation to protect your citizens, not your institutions, not your power. You have an obligation to protect your people and the other inhabitants in your countries. It's as simple as that, let the scientists do their job, let the environmentalists do their job Let the, let youth who know better than you do their job’’ Larry said