Tomáš Krupa • Director of We Have to Survive
“Climate change is the most challenging topic of our times”
- The Slovak documentarian is preparing an ambitious project addressing the necessary adaptation and transformation of life in the wake of climate change
Slovak filmmaker and producer Tomáš Krupa talked to Cineuropa about his globe-trotting project We Have to Survive, which explores survivalist mechanisms in the wake of climate change. It was recently presented at the East Doc Market (see the news).
Cineuropa: You switched from the topic of a dignified death (The Good Death [+see also:
interview: Tomáš Krupa
film profile]) to adaptation for survival for your next project. How did that happen?
Tomáš Krupa: I consider climate change to be the most challenging topic of our times. That's what our project offers – a window into a possible future – and it is a film about what global warming means for our way of life on this planet. We do not want to awaken or intensify a sense of horror in people, nor to induce remorse. Fear of the future can mobilise only a very limited percentage of people; the others need a clear provision of solutions and examples of action. “Transformation” is a keyword when it comes to understanding what we can expect from the future. It’s a transformation that will be retrogressive in many ways and will thrust humanity back several centuries. The life we live or the world we live in will not end, but it will change.
We Have to Survive appears to be a survivalist travelogue. Where do you plan to shoot?
The effects of heat, drought, desertification and flooding dictate the main environments that we will address in our project. These are the four dominant symptoms of global climate change; the world has four cardinal directions, and therefore we have decided to follow four stories pointing in each direction. To the north, Greenland; to the south, Australia; to the west, Louisiana, USA; and to the east, Mongolia. The reason for us reaching out in each cardinal direction is to create a dramatic circle to express the fact that the climate crisis is not a problem only for one particular place. You can’t say, “It does not concern me.” It is a problem for all of us. The circle is going to get smaller and smaller; it’s just a matter of time. There is no place to hide.
You have said that the film won’t be about ecology or science. How are you going to steer clear of these topics?
We are indeed going to avoid talking about ecology and science, which is the task of other documentary genres. It is not my task to find out the causes that have led to these disasters, but rather to capture the consequences and life after them. It is a documentary driven by human stories. Therefore, our focus is on man and his struggle to maintain dignity in his life, whatever this may mean to the different cultures included in the movie. The ability to adapt to new, more difficult conditions is the main topic. The process of adaptation that the protagonists go through is the basis of the film's narrative.
Could you introduce your protagonists?
The main protagonists are not yet ready to join the other climate refugees. Instead, they want to stay where they belong, where they were born, and where their social and cultural roots are. They are: Greenlandic Arctic hunters who must transform themselves into farmers; the very first American citizens who are going to be relocated by the government from an island that’s quickly disappearing under rising water levels; Australians who have been forced to dig flats, bars, schools and churches underground and hide there from daytime temperatures that can reach 55 degrees Celsius in the south; and Mongolians who have to change parts of the Gobi Desert into forest in order to stop the sand from heading towards nearby cities.
What is the project’s preliminary schedule, also taking into account the COVID-19 situation?
Despite all of the challenging restrictions and regulations brought on by the pandemic, we have already developed and nurtured local contacts within all the countries and have access to the people. The next location scouting will wrap by the end of this year. In June, we are heading to the edge of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, as the local government is considering opening the borders by 1 May. In July, we should be able to get up to the northern towns of Greenland. Hopefully, in the autumn, the restrictions on entering the USA will be lifted, and at the end of the year, we should manage to finish development in Australia. Production should start at the beginning of 2022, and I expect it to last for two years.
Sales agent Taskovski Films has already boarded your project. Are you looking for co-producers or funding?
It’s rare to find a sales agent at the development stage of a project. We were lucky: I met Irena Taskovski at the 2020 Emerging Producers workshop, and we got talking. Irena helped us create a strong distribution and marketing strategy for our Creative Europe – MEDIA application, and that application was successful. So far, we have reached 30% of the total budget and 85% of the development budget. Hopefully, with the full support of domestic partners such as the Slovak Audiovisual Fund and a co-production with Radio and Television Slovakia, we can cobble together half of the budget in Slovakia. We are already in talks with bigger European broadcasters, and the Mongolian National Film Commission has also suggested possibilities for co-production. This project is ambitious in the sense of its production costs and can be made only as an international co-production. It’s my biggest film so far, and I am at my most prolific at the moment. I also feel convinced about our unique approach to the topic of climate change. The movie will be completed at the beginning of 2024.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.