Ecovillage People

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Issue 323
November/December 2020
Life in the Dark


Ecovillage People

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Cover: Moon Moths © Becca Stadtlander, 2020. Exclusively licensed by

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Nat Dyer enjoys a short documentary but is left wanting more. Communities of Hope: Discovering the Ecovillages of Europe by Directed by Diego Ruiz Hidalgo & Lou Salomon. The Great Relation Films, 2020.

Industrial society is killing the living world. We are part of that society. These two facts play tug-of-war in the heart of many an environmentalist. How can we reconcile them in our lives? Communities of Hope, a documentary available for free online, looks for answers among those who have chosen to live in intentional, ecological villages.

It’s a passion project of two newbie filmmakers, Diego Ruiz Hidalgo and Lou Salomon, who two years ago traded in their jobs and apartments for a campervan in search of wisdom in some of Europe’s one hundred eco-villages. The core of the film is interviews with members of the Tamera community Portugal, Damanhur in Italy, and others from Iceland to Russia.

The message is broad and holistic: it’s all about connection and cooperation. The transition to the regenerative society we need requires a personal, inner transformation. The way we relate to ourselves shapes how we relate to others and the rest of the world. We need to wake up to our connection with all living things – and to the urgency of now. Ecological solutions are built on healthy social relationships. All excellent and essential.

It’s not just about ideas, either: there’s a focus on practical action. Deeds, not words, count. We see community members planting and harvesting, cutting wood, building outdoor toilets, and digging soil to manage water. Ecovillages, we are told, are “laboratories for the future”. They are spaces where innovations can be trialled and spread into the world. The film’s release was aptly timed during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has shown the startling change possible when world leaders recognise an emergency.

Despite this, the film-makers don’t make the time in the thirty-minute film to craft a human story or make us feel for the interviewees. We end up knowing little about the community members and experts. The film shows new horizons, but at times it feels like a well-shot promotional film for the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Europe. It never really goes for the audience’s heart.

I wanted to know more about Diego and Lou’s adventure behind the camera, along the lines of En quête de sens (‘A Quest for Meaning’), the refreshing French documentary from a few years ago. What inspired their journey? What setbacks did they have? What moved them? What did they learn about the tug-of-war inside us between ecology and industrial society? Hopefully there will be more films, so that we can find out.

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Nat Dyer is a freelance writer based in London. @natjdyer

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