Guelph Film Festival’s ‘Dear Future Children’ Review

By Justine Kraemer, GAC volunteer writer. 

Directed by Franz Bohm, Dear Future Children is a close look at the next generation, and the current issues they are already working to address. Bohm expertly blends the personal struggles with the global challenges faced by young activists around the world. 

The documentary focuses primarily on three young activists from around the globe. The audience is first introduced to Rayen, an activist fighting for social justice in her native Chile. Pepper is the pseudonym of an activist fighting for democracy in Hong Kong. Finally, Hilda is a climate activist based in Uganda. 

From the film’s beginning, it’s depressing how indifferent the adults surrounding these three young activists are. The young activists are filled with such obvious passion for their causes, along with an accompanying sense of urgency. The adults with the power to enact change at best listen to these concerns with something bordering on condescension, and at worst actively pose a threat to the lives of these outspoken critics of the status quo. 

Bohm was very smart to feature three activists from three different parts of the world. It challenges viewers to see these issues as global and affecting each one of us. It’s also made clear that these global crises are all interconnected. It is an indictment of how broken political systems are the world over. It’s also clear that the solutions to these issues require a collaborative framework. 

Rayen’s story arguably requires the most context, as she takes viewers through the Chilean protests against the widening chasm between the rich and poor of the country. There is reference to the enduring grip of policies enacted by late dictator Augusto Pinochet, however there was less mentioned about Chile’s current political leaders. A tipping point was identified when the Chilean government increased the fare for the metro. Through Rayen, viewers are shown the stark reality of living under a police state. 

Pepper’s thread leads viewers through pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong taking place in response to legislation curtailing the rights of Hong Kongers. Watching Pepper, we see the ingenuity of the Hong Kong activists, to protect their own identity, and to monitor fellow activists and help them avoid danger at the hands of police. In this thread too, as in Chile, there is jarring footage of an extremely aggressive police force. It was heartbreaking to watch the movement, which was so featured at its beginning, be overwhelmed by sheer brutality.

Hilda sheds a light on the devastating impacts climate change has had on her personally. She is able to testify to world leaders the tangible devastation the climate crisis has caused in her country, and how her personal experience is far from unique. She sadly notes that she has had to interrupt her education due to climate crisis-related events for years. With that in mind, she chose to spend her Fridays intentionally advocating for action on climate change, in climate advocate Greta Thunberg-style demonstrations each Friday. 

The end of the film hardly brings consolation, even if it is certainly inspiring to see these young activists in action. It’s a difficult and heartbreaking reality to accept that the work that these activists are doing is nothing less than absolutely essential. Rayen speaks to activists who have lost eyes after being shot with rubber bullets, and meets the family of an activist who lost his life. Pepper is now considered a political refugee and is no longer able to live in Hong Kong. It’s clear even after impassioned speeches like Hilda’s, world leaders continue to evade taking even the most minimal action to address the climate crisis.

Dear Future Children is a searing indictment to us all, and it’s an important film to watch. It compels the current generation to action. Sometimes, it’s difficult to see beyond our own individual situation. Dear Future Children compels us to remember that we need to choose:  join together and face the challenges common to us all, or face our ultimate destruction. The choice is still entirely ours. 

The Guelph Film Festival runs until December 5th! Please take the time to check out the incredible line ups this year and Guelph Film! 

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