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Film students find hope through storytelling and Grand Challenge Grant

A documentary film funded by the Resource Nexus for Sustainability Grand Challenge focuses on sustainability and resilience within the Boise community. Eight film students, led by Professor Rulon Wood, worked on the film, investigating and documenting local leaders and organizations fighting for a more sustainable future. Through the process of documentary filmmaking, the students found not only a better understanding of sustainability, but also reasons for hope.

Harnessing the power of storytelling

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Grand Challenge Grants “foster innovation to solve key health and development problems.” In conjunction with faculty and staff, Boise State University established two Grand Challenges. The Resource Nexus for Sustainability Grand Challenge draws together students and professors across disciplines with the goal of increasing the impact of sustainability research.

Four teams work on the Resource Nexus for Sustainability Grand Challenge. The Community Engagement Team, chaired by Wood, identifies and implements community engagement efforts, shedding light on local leaders. To serve the goal of the Community Engagement Team and to help his students find a better understanding of the local fight for sustainability, Wood harnessed the power of documentary filmmaking.

“We, in the arts, have a big part to play in sustainability,” he said. “We can tell the stories that inform change and make the world a better place.”

Finding hope through filmmaking

Olivia Gunnip, a senior Film and Television Arts major from Eagle River, Alaska, began the project with feelings of powerlessness about the current climate crisis.

“Thinking about sustainability in terms of the environment, there are a lot of things to be pessimistic about right now,” Gunnip said. “From this project, I’m most grateful for having the opportunity to meet people and businesses around the city of Boise that are actively trying to make a difference.”

Whether through creating artwork out of recycled materials, or influencing people so they take a bike instead of a car to school, Gunnip saw how people performing seemingly “small and insignificant” daily actions are ultimately committed to long-term change.

“I hope that this documentary allows people to reexamine their own lives and see the difference that they can make in the world, even on a small scale, which will hopefully influence their outlook on being sustainable long term,” she said.

Gunnip also found reason to hope in the collaborative nature of the Grand Challenge and the documentary film.

“I find comfort in knowing that people of different backgrounds, like philosophers, environmentalists, and the film program, focus on these ideas instead of just one specific group in order to raise awareness for the situation–that not just Boise, but the world is in–to start sparking conversations that signify meaningful hopeful change.”