ACT Human Rights Film Festival: ‘Anote’s Ark’ tells grim tale of climate change

Nate Day

Kiribati is an island nation, one that most students have likely never heard of, located in the central Pacific Ocean. The nation is made up of 33 tiny islands, but soon, those islands will be swallowed up by the ocean.

“Climate change is no longer a political issue,” President Anote Tong of the Republic of Kiribati said in the film “Anote’s Ark.”


Due to rises in sea levels across the globe, small island nations across the globe are facing the eventual destruction of their homes.

The film highlighted that many floods have already occurred in Kiribati, temporarily forcing families out of their homes—if not forcing them out altogether.

“Anote’s Ark” was written and directed by Matthieu Rytz. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary was originally released on January 19, 2018

The movie centered on a woman named Sermary who had lived in Kiribati for her entire life. She and her husband, Ato, had several young children, and they felt that they needed to better protect themselves. As a result, the family emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand over the course of six months due to pricey airfare.

Sermary’s family isn’t alone either, as immigration to Auckland is becoming very regular for citizens of the island nation.

“We thought that being so isolated, we’d be immune to the tribulations of the world,” Tong said. “But here we are, subject to the global phenomenon of climate change.”

Tong and his team are searching for solutions, however.

A portion of the opening weekend of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival was held at the Lincoln Center for a screening of a film Sunday afternoon. The event involved the screening of the movie, Anote’s Ark, as well as a panelist discussion and a Q&A session with audience members (Erica Giesenhagen | Collegian).

In addition to participating in the Paris Accords, they’ve been studying the possibility of creating large underwater dwellings and floating islands for their citizens to relocate to, once they scrape together several trillion dollars and international attention.

The film generated a positive experience for viewers.

“I thought the film was a really eye-opening perspective of what Pacific Islanders are facing and what one day we can all be facing if we don’t act on it,” said Alex Shellum, a senior studying computer sciences. “Higher elevations places will be having the same problems someday.”

And not only did Shellum enjoy it, but he also felt inspired.


“It gave me more things to think about in terms of global climate change,” Shellum said. “I realized I should be getting more involved especially after seeing what could happen.”

The film was followed by a panel featuring Professor Scott Denning of the atmospheric science department and Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, the chief sustainability officer for the city of Fort Collins.

“The film estimated that all Kiribati would be wiped off the face of the planet within the next century,” said Denning. “Kiribati has 100,000 people, but we’re estimating that 600 million people will be displaced by the end of the century due to climate change.”

Denning also noted that it’s not just atoll-based nations like Kiribati that are facing demise, but all lower-lying areas, including islands belonging to the United States.

Kozak Theil explained that Fort Collins is playing a part in helping out parts of the world struggling with issues like these.

We thought that being so isolated, we’d be immune to the tribulations of the world. But here we are, subject to the global phenomenon of climate change.” Anote Tong, president of Kiribati

“Fort Collins has adopted some of the most ambitious climate action policies in the world,” said Kozak Thiel. “…We want to reduce pollution and emissions by 80 percent by 2030.”

For reference, the United States has vowed to reduce pollution by 80 percent by 2050, two decades later than Fort Collins, according to Kozak Thiel.

While the climate change and decimation of entire nations may seem grim, both panelists referred to Island nations as “microcosms of peril, but also of promise.”

Collegian reporter Nate Day can be reached at or on Twitter @NateMDay