Starting his career as an environmental journalist way back in 1988 and spending more than a decade working for almost every major daily of Europe, Norbert G Suchanek, turned a documentary filmmaker only in the last six years.
He switched over to filmmaking for a simple reason: to make people more aware about environmental problems across the globe and was recently in the City to participate in the International Uranium Film Festival (IUFI).
“I was sure of becoming a journalist right since school. Environmental studies became my area of interest because at that time environmental quest was strong in Germany. Our rivers were polluted and a massive movement was generated to save the country from drastic effects of water, air and soil pollution. The movement led to the creation of a Green Party which was based on the principal of environmentalism,” says Norbert, who is also the director of IUFI.
What drove him towards filmmaking? “In 2006, I attended an international meeting on uranium mining in US where I saw many films related to mining and radiation problems. The screening of these documentaries was not common at the time. I realised that they should be seen by general public too. So, I decided to make documentaries.”
Norbert’s first documentary was Speech of the Chief on the nuclear power plant in Rio de Janeiro. The film focuses on people whose land was acquired for a nuclear power plant. “The documentary is like an interview with the chief of the indigenous tribe Guarani Mbya of Rio de Janeiro. It highlights the deplorable conditions of people living under the constant shadow of a nuclear power plant,” says Norbert.
Being an environmentalist Norbert in his second documentary Uranium Thirst highlights the poor situation of people living close to Uranium mines. “Uranium Thirst focuses on people of Namibia, forced to live in desert-like conditions because the underground water is polluted owing to mining. So, the locals are suffering from physical illnesses like bone deformities and skin allergies. It was troublesome to see so much suffering when I was filming.”
However, Norbert believes that documentaries alone cannot solve his purpose of creating awareness in a country like India or even Brazil, for that matter. “In these countries environmental issues finally come down to human rights which are not dealt with properly. Secondly, I have noticed that all the mistakes made by European countries in dealing with environmental problems in last 20 years have been repeated in South East Asian countries. This, surprisingly, includes India too,” he says.
Therefore, in order to bring together people for a common cause to save planet Earth, Norbert wants to investigate and write about hidden issues. “Activism is only possible when you highlight issues and I want to make movies on the environmental problems to raise more awareness,” says the man who believes that someday each one will come together for a cause that