The Human Element



Cowell Theatre Sun, Sep 9, 2018 5:30 PM
Film Info
Director:Matthew Testa
Year of Production:2018
Topic:Clean Energy
Climate Action
Pollution & Toxins
Sustainable Cities
Running Time:76 min.


During his four-decade career as a photographer and explorer, James Balog (Chasing Ice)has focused his lens on the complex relationship between humans and nature. From panoramic mosaics of America’s most cherished “champion” trees to unsettling portraits of endangered species posed quizzically in a studio, Balog’s work has challenged us to contemplate our place in, and responsibility to, the natural world.

Now, Balog is witnessing the most sweeping and rapid environmental change in the history of the planet. The power of human activity has now surpassed all other forces shaping our world. But how can one photographer convey this? Attempting to document a subject so vast will be the greatest challenge of Balog’s career.


The Human Element follows Balog on an artistic journey to distill this crucial moment in our environmental history into an approachable body of images and ideas. To achieve this, Balog is breaking this dense topic into what ancient societies identified as the four elements of life: Air, Earth, Fire and Water, seeking to photographically portray each element and examine how human activity has changed its nature. Balog further humanizes this story of change by investigating how altering the elements is in turn affecting everyday Americans right now. The Human Element seeks to change this outlook by featuring iconic subjects who are often overlooked victims of climate change.

Expected guest: film’s subject and photographer James Balog; Jared Blumenfeld (discussion emcee), Podship Earth


Program Sponsor:


Community Partners: 350 SF; Bay Area Air Quality Management District; Sunflower Alliance

Matthew TestaMatthew Testa has been working in documentary film and television for two decades, often focusing on the environment, social justice issues and the interplay between people and nature. Testa’s previous films and nonfiction series include Snake Salvation (National Geographic), Whale Wars (Animal Planet), Storm Chasers (Discovery) and Vlogumentary, which tracks the unlikely rise to stardom of Youtube personalities who document their daily lives. His first film was the ITVS-funded environmental documentary, The Buffalo War, which aired nationally on PBS, toured festivals and won 9 awards. Testa holds an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute Conservatory and lives in Los Angeles.

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