Salem Film Festival Features Climate Change-Themed Documentaries

Film festival begins March 24; SAFE sponsors After Antarctica

by Stan Franzeen

After two years of pandemania, SALEM FILM FEST’s 15th anniversary kicks off on Thursday, March 24, with renewed vigor and another outstanding slate of new documentaries.

This year SAFE is the proud sponsor of the Massachusetts premiere of After Antarctica, one of several environment- and climate-related films to be presented during the festival. The following synopses summarize the content of AFTER ANTARCTICA (at the Peabody Essex Museum, Fri, 3/25, 2:30 pm) as well as five other films we urge you to consider viewing. Further details and ticketing for this hybrid festival are at

Massachusetts premiere

A journey across both poles, After Antarctica follows legendary polar explorer Will Steger’s lifelong journey as an eyewitness to the greatest changes to the polar regions of our planet. Now, 30 years after his historic coast-to-coast expedition across the coldest continent on Earth, Steger heads out on the ice once again, at a time when he is not only known for being the first in history to complete these historic feats – he is also the last.

New England premiere

As the Arctic polar ice cap melts, reaching the North Pole has become increasingly dangerous. But an expedition of women from East and West, led by explorer Felicity Aston, have set an audacious goal of skiing to the North Pole. Filmmaker Holly Morris and an all-women crew document this daring and unprecedented group as they navigate everything from frostbite and polar bear threats, to sexism and self-doubt in an intimate story of resilience, survival and global citizenry — in what may be the last-ever over ice expedition to the top of the world.

New England premiere, virtual only

The inspiring story of one Newfoundlander’s obsessive quest to clean up coastal ocean floors and bring much-needed attention to a worldwide environmental crisis. A diver devotes himself to cleaning up the ocean floors in Newfoundland’s harbors, one tire at a time. As he edges closer to financial ruin in his effort to save the planet, his good deeds don’t go unnoticed.


North Atlantic right whales are dying faster than they can reproduce. With just over 330 remaining, these great whales rarely die of natural causes. Instead they are run over by ships or suffer lethal injuries from fishing gear. If we don’t stop killing them, in 20 years they could be extinct.

From the only known calving grounds to the shifting feeding grounds, Last of the Right Whales follows the North Atlantic right whale migration and the people committed to saving a species still struggling to recover from centuries of hunting. Now climate change is forcing right whales further north in search of food, putting them on a collision course with deadly ships and fishing gear. With unprecedented access to film the whale migration, Last of the Right Whales brings a message of hope about the most at risk great whale on the planet.

RIVER (2021)
East Coast premiere

A cinematic and musical odyssey, the Willem Dafoe-narrated documentary, River is an exploration of the timeless relationship between humanity and rivers. Billed as an orchestral concert film, the doc is an ode to the natural world and a retelling of the history of both rivers and human civilization. “When the first rains fell, the Earth awakened,” reads Dafoe in the moving trailer, which features stunning footage of river systems around the world. “Where rivers wandered, life could flourish. They have shaped us as a species and we worship them as gods. Today, there is scarcely a river unspanned, undammed or undiverted. The sheer scale of the human project has begun to overwhelm the world’s rivers.”

Massachusetts premiere

As China pours hundreds of billions of dollars into South American infrastructure, jaguars are disappearing from the continent’s most protected rainforests. Targeted as substitutes for tiger parts, which have historically been used in traditional Chinese medicines, jaguars are now being trafficked at dangerously high numbers to fill a new market demand. Spanning over mist-covered jungles in the Amazon to bustling wildlife markets in China, Tigre Gente unfolds like an international thriller as a Bolivian park ranger and young Hong Kongese journalist go undercover to investigate the deadly jaguar trade sweeping South America.

This year’s film festival will be a hybrid event. Films can be seen in-person Thursday, March 24 – Sunday, March 27. Virtual programming is available Monday, March 28 – Sunday, April 3. For tickets and more info: