For the earth, for the lives

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 21 March 2019

Terra, a visually stunning documentary which premieres tonight on Animal Planet, depicts the relationship humans have with the other species on Earth. We speak to Michael Pitiot, who has co-directed the film, to know more about it

Terra, a powerful documentary directed by Michael Pitiot and Yann Arthus-Bertrand and produced by Hope Production, explores the relationship between humans and other beings on the planet. Terra, which means land, is a tribute to the human race and shows that we are still capable of changing our future, just by looking differently at life. Before Terra, Pitiot and Bertrand made a film called Planet Ocean. 

“Before getting involved in the making of these films, I was going on living my life like most humans beings — tackling challenges like finding the right job, striking work life balance and looking after family and so on. I wasn’t aware that the planet I was living on was so endangered. I started thinking about the ways in which we could change the course of how things around us worked and impacted the planet. To do that, there were two steps — firstly, it was important to create awareness and secondly to figure out what actions we needed to take, in order to help save the planet and other beings. This is why we made this film,” says Pitiot. 

A lot of memorable incidents happened over the course of 18 months when they were producing the movie which was shot in over 25 countries including Nepal and Bangladesh. The team specialises in helicopter shots and aerial photography and required 60 days of helicopter shooting and 100 days of shooting on the ground. Pitiot says that the process was extremely daunting and exhausting but asserts that it is his way of making films. “I really enjoy working with local photographers and cinematographers. We collaborated with them in every part of the world where we shot the film. That was an exciting part of making the film. Apart from that, there have been many other beautiful stories that resulted from our experience through the process,” adds Pitiot.

Because of human activities, says Pitiot, very little space is left for wildlife and it is time we took the issue seriously. “Just about two decades ago, we thought that the world was endless and we could explore nature in its purest form. But sadly, the truth is different today. The time when the planet could be called ‘endless’ is over now. Every single place on this planet is shrinking every day,” he cautions. 

And he adds that all of us are a part of the process that has led to this state of the earth and wildlife. “We have to stop saying that the problem is because of others — we share the responsibility of every decision that humanity takes in totality. We are using elements, equipment, resources, materials to make our lives easier and to be able to acquire them, perhaps we are even destroying forests and killing animals. It is a long chain of responsibility and instead of just blaming ourselves or others, we have to think twice before we make choices. We can’t just blame our political leaders or people in position of power, but take initiatives at our own individual levels,” he asserts. 

Sharing his experience of shooting the film in Nepal, Pitiot says that his heart was bleeding to see thousands of animals being sacrificed/slaughtered in the name of rituals. “But I’m happy that after long negotiations, protests and efforts, that practice is banned now,” he adds. Recalling his experience of shooting in Bangladesh, he says that he was appalled to see the conditions in which people worked there.

We ask him if people turning vegetarian/vegan is in any way helping make a positive change to the environment. Pitiot says that what we have to be aware of is that food is a major challenge for the mankind. “There is a general tendency and research has also proved that eating too much meat, especially red meat, puts you at major health risks like heart diseases and cancer. In any case, reducing the consumption of red meat is necessary. Does it help animals? Yes, it does. Primarily, we are feeding on cattle to consume red meat. So to procure red meat, we have to feed the cattle, raise them on a farm where they can graze, irrigate the farm for enough grass to grow for them to eat. But do we have the resources? No. It is a long chain and in that process, we are wasting a lot of resources,” he adds. 

Pitiot says that his documentary film will motivate people to make the right choice. “The documentary will open the minds to questions like what kind of life do I want to lead, what kind of planet do I want to live on and what kind of picture of this earth do I want to give to my children? Making the right choice is a great step forward. Do you not want to respect life?,” he questions. 

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Terra, the international award-winning documentary will premiere tonight (March 22) on Animal Planet at 8 pm

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