The film Ökozid (“Ecocide”) is set in the future, in 2038. The Federal Republic of Germany is being sued for damages before the International Criminal Court for human rights violations, resulting from insufficient measures against climate change. 31 plaintiff states are demanding that Germany pay part of the costs of their countries’ adaptation measures, claiming that they are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change, while they themselves are only marginally responsible.

Director Andres Veiel stages this topical issue in such a way that it feels like a play. This is probably due to the fact that the film was shot in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that a minimum safety distance had to be maintained or the actors had to be separated from each other by Plexiglas sheets.

The two lawyers of the plaintiff states and the public prosecutor of the Federal Republic of Germany present their arguments in a rather pathetic manner. The prosecution argues for a paramount right of nature to integrity. It relies on the right to life in the first sentence of Article 6(1) of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“Everyone has the inherent right to life”), which would be taken away by more frequent and increasingly severe environmental disasters such as storms, floods, etc. Without clean air and access to water, the foundations for a dignified life would be lacking.

Germany’s lawyer, on the other hand, argues that Germany has already done a lot to combat climate change and that, for example, an earlier phase-out of the controversial coal energy would have cost many jobs. Furthermore, Germany has a duty to look after its own citizens, some of whom are also suffering the consequences of climate change, before making payments to other countries.

In the course of the film, German climate policy over the past decades (especially in the field of energy and transport) is presented in key points and placed in the context of international climate negotiations. Various witnesses are interviewed to underline the argument. These include people from the German car industry, representatives of NGOs and politicians.

The subject of the film is highly topical and legally contentious: whether the obligation of states to protect the climate can be derived from human rights and whether, as a result, states can be held liable for failure to fulfil this obligation. Both the anthropocentric perspectives, which focus on the protection of human rights, and the ecocentric perspective, which seek to protect nature on the basis of its intrinsic value, are briefly discussed. The legal issues, however, are not discussed in more detail. Instead, the focus is on moral issues, which are dramatised in an emotional way. In addition, the power of media manipulation is presented in the background, with advanced technology that can even deceptively alter video clips.

In the end, the court delivers a verdict that will not be revealed here to keep the film exciting to watch.

In conclusion, the film deals with a very intriguing subject, but does not live up to its potential. It is an interesting mix between a fact-laden documentary, with the involvement of real people from society and the re-enactment of political cases, and science fiction, especially with the use of new technologies such as microphones attached to the neck.

Translated by Iman Seepersad.

©Photo Zero One Film by Julia Terjung.

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