Independent Filmmaker Jennifer Redfearn visited Auraria April 18 to screen her Oscar-nominated short documentary, “Sun Come Up.”
The film tells the story of the Carteret islanders, the world’s first environmental refugees. “Sun Come Up” follows a group of young islanders as they journey to the nearby Bougainville Island to plead their case and find new homes.
Displaced from their remote island home off the coast of New Guinea by rising ocean levels, the native population of roughly 2,500 people must look for land on nearby islands.
The documentary was screened in the former Starz Theatre, and was sponsored by the Metro English Department. Redfearn followed her Auraria showing with an engagement at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where the film was shown with commentary from curators.
Redfearn was first alerted to this story through a humanitarian alert about the Carterets.
“It was the first time I’d heard of the Carteret Islands,” Redfearn said. “I couldn’t believe that people were being displaced by climate change. It struck me as an incredibly important story to tell.”
Redfearn and her filmmaking partner, Tim Metzger, shot the film in six weeks. An additional year was needed to translate the dialogue and edit down the nearly 100 hours of footage into a 38-minute film. When the film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Documentary category, it focused some much-needed attention on the plight of the Carteret islanders.
“When it was nominated, we put together a [fundraising] campaign in between the nomination and the Academy Awards,” Redfearn said. “We encouraged people from around the United States to throw screening parties with the intention of raising funds for the islanders. Those went through Oxfam New Zealand, and they used them for the relocation sites.”
While the funds raised for the islanders have been hugely beneficial, Redfearn insists that she didn’t make the film with the express intention of aiding their cause.
“That wasn’t my initial intention. My initial intention was to educate, to tell a story,” Redfearn said. “It wasn’t until later that I realized the film could be used to give back to the community.”
Dr. Vincent Piturro, Metro’s cinema studies professor, introduced the screening, and praised Redfearn’s film.
“Film scholars tend to separate films into two categories: great films and important films,” Piturro said. “It’s rare that a film can be both, but ‘Sun Come Up’ is both great and important.”
Redfearn is hard at work on her next project, which will document a blind cinema club in Havana.
“The film follows the growth of the cinema club, but also three remarkable blind people whose stories intersect at the cinema,” Redfearn said. “It’s a story about art and cinema and imagination and perception.”