“The 12th Hour” film will be featured at the upcoming United Nations Association Film Festival this October

Filmmaker Susan Kucera's film "The 12th Hour" will be featured at the 25th annual UNAFF on Oct. 26. Photo courtesy of UNAFF

As the United Nations Association – (UNAFF) celebrates its 25th year, much of the program line up for the annual film festival focuses on the troubles and issues facing our world today, through the theme of ‘Reflections.’

One of the oldest documentary film festivals in the United States, this year’s UNAFF will spotlight current events from across the globe, including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, North Korea, Norway, Palestine, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, Ukraine and the U.S.

photo/image courtesy of UNAFF

The festival will be held from October 20 to October 30, 2022 in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, San Francisco and at Stanford University.

During the festival’s 11- day run, UNAFF will show 60 documentaries. 60 percent of the films featured this year are by filmmakers of color from all over the world. And of the all the submissions, 56 percent of this year’s films are directed/produced by women filmmakers; among them is Susan Kucera.

Kucera has been working in film since her youth, first as a camera assistant studying the Athabasca Glacier creating educational short films with her father, Glaciologist, Dr.Richard Kucera, for Encyclopedia Britannica Film Corporation and then as a screenwriter and director of documentaries.

Her documentaries have received accolades over the years. Kucera’s work has been featured in the U.S, Canada, and the UK on National Geographic, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Shaw, NHK, KCET, LINK TV, Time Warner, and schools and universities as well as translated for and featured on platforms in Italy, Germany, and Argentina.

Kucera and “The 12th Hour” producer Jim Swift graciously took time to answer a few questions this reporter had about the film. And, so I asked:

How has the subject of climate changed since you first began documenting this topic?

“We have released 4 films looking at climate change through various prisms for over 10 years and the subject is more in the public discourse than it was previously,” Swift said.

Pointing out the need for people to simply accept the reality of climate change, Swift said. “The climate change resisters aren’t resisting as much anymore and while some still don’t agree that climate change is human caused, for the most part people are focusing on armoring – how do we protect ourselves from the ravages of climate change going forward.”

“The shift is now to an acceptance of climate change and one of resilience. However, he noted, there is still not the wartime mobilization that is needed to have the effect we need.”

From your work on this topic, what are the specific “hopeful delusions?” 

“One hopeful delusion, Swift pointed out, is that the politicians will wake up and start working on it seriously worldwide. Or, that large corporations can possibly make radical changes when Wall Street screams for quarterly profits.”
“Overall, added Swift, people are more concerned about problems in the short term, like political infighting and the economy with our systems that are set up for growth and not stabilization.”
Commenting further Swift noted. “Another delusion is that climate change is somehow not yet on our doorstep and that we still have decades to switch our lifestyles.  Or that when necessary, said Swift we will be able to dispense with the use of oil rapidly without also having societal collapse.”
Is there a way to make climate change a top priority so that at least some of the most immediate (in the here & now) disastrous consequences can be diverted? 
“We will continue to kick the can and make adaptions but it will be impossible to significantly undo the massive CO2 outflows before things really unravel,” he said.

Another crucial element Swift points out is… “The remedial effects won’t show up in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and we also will run out of money to fix things soon as our infrastructure continues to collapse.” Looking towards the not too distant future, Swift said. “The youth of the world have a clear vested interest in changing the system if at all possible.”

Filmmaker, Susan Kucera is among those featured at the 25th annual UNAFF this October. Photo courtesy of IMDb
And (most importantly) Swift emphasized, “it’s up to us adults to recognize and assist them as much as we can.”
“The 12th Hour” isn’t Kucera or Swift’s first time placing light upon the subject of climate change. “Hot Money” is another documentary of Kucera’s that looks into the complexity of how the global financial system plays a role in the issue of climate change.
Just as with “The 12th Hour,” making that film was an effort as Kucera told Matthew Toffolo at the blog site WILDSOUND. “It took about a year to film and nine months to edit,” said Kucera. Especially with regards to the experts, “it was a challenge” she said, working to make the information in the documentary understandable to an ordinary person.
And, finally I asked.. “What are the things that keep you going in the face of obstacles, such as indifference or outright denial of climate change?
“Realizing that there are plenty of things in life that cannot be controlled, said Swift.  and all we can do is the best that we can. So we continue to try and also adapt, and continue do the best using our abilities each in our own way.”
“Our film focuses very much on our evolutionary traits, said Kucera, recognizing that we have an evolutionary mis-match and survival traits that worked in the distant past aren’t going to help us today and actually are leading to our undoing.”
“The 12th Hour” will be shown at the UNAFF Festival on Wednesday, Oct. 26. For details visit the United Nations Association Film Festival web site.