San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Animated Film Educates on Climate Change

Bizarre and frightening scenes flash in shades of industrial gray. Factories discharge smoky filth. Bleached human bones spread across a broken sidewalk. This is the futuristic, postapocalyptic Earth depicted in the animated film “Odyssey 2050,” the current project of Costa Rica-based Peruvian directors, producers and brothers Daniel and Miguel Bermejo of Synchro Films.

The story unwinds, and sympathetic extraterrestrials from the not-so-distant future witness the destruction and global chaos inflicted on the planet by the ecological irresponsibility of humans. They use their advanced technology to travel back in time to warn us, hoping we will decide to curb our destructive actions. 

Backed by the British Embassy in Costa Rica, the three-part movie, which is still in production, aims to educate youngsters about the hazards of global climate change, while soliciting their help.

Starting in May of this year, the brothers Bermejo, accompanied by folks from the British Embassy, visited Costa Rican schools to pitch the concept and ask students for their input. They asked the kids what they would like to see in the movie, and what advice the aliens might offer the citizens of our troubled planet. The students’ ideas will be directly incorporated into the film.

“It’s a way of getting young people interested and involved in climate change. People talk at kids but don’t engage with them in their own lingo and points of interest,” said Bruce Callow, political and communications officer for the British Embassy and one of the founding members of the project.

The film’s producers believe that by getting students and young people directly involved in the project, “Odyssey 2050” will help create a new generation of excited, eco-minded youth.

“What we want to do with all of this is plant a consciousness in the youth to help them not to have bad habits like today’s adults have,” Miguel Bermejo said. “It is easier to create good habits in a young person than it is to change bad habits in an adult.”

In addition to the students, some of Costa Rica’s brightest scientific and artistic minds have given their support to the project.

Thelvin Cabezas, the Costa Rican brains behind important parts of the visual effects in movies such as “Avatar” and “Beowulf,” has acted as technical adviser to the project to ensure the film’s animation is top-notch.

Tico physicist, engineer and astronaut Franklin Chang also has been involved in the project, going so far as to appear in parts of the movie filmed at the headquarters of his rocket propulsion lab, Ad Astra Rocket Company, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

In the opening scene of the six-minute promotional short of the film, Chang explains the seriousness and severity of climate change, but also expresses hope for the future – if we can act now to end our destructive tendencies. 

“Global change and climatic change is a fact. … It is important to know that it is our responsibility to act now, to begin to cure this extraordinary damage that we have done to our atmosphere and our world. The important thing to know is that it is not too late,” he says.

Additionally, Dave “the Dude” Scott, vocalist for the local Blind Pigs Blues Band, provides voice talent for one of the film’s main characters. Radio 2 DJ Margie Flaum is also assisting with voice work.

Although the project was conceived on Costa Rican soil, it has quickly become an international phenomenon. The “Odyssey 2050” short has been shown in film festivals and classrooms in the Netherlands, Mexico and New Zealand, among other countries. It has been featured on the BBC, and students from as far away as China and Poland have submitted ideas.

“(‘Odyssey 2050’) has grown more than we ever hoped for. It is all very exciting because kids are sending their ideas from all over the world,” Miguel Bermejo said.

Callow believes part of the project’s international success stems from the world’s respect for the country in which the film is being made.

“Costa Rica has such a good reputation around the world of being ahead of the game in protecting the environment, so we’re proud of having the project be from here,” he said. “We’re using the Costa Rica brand, and we’ll see how that goes internationally.”

The first of the film’s three segments is due for release at the end of December, with the second following in mid- to late 2011. The crew plans to release the finished, three-part movie in early 2012. Each episode will contain a story that stands on its own and will be 25 to 30 minutes in length.

But the project doesn’t end with release of the film. Plans for an accompanying comic book are on the drawing board. This will allow “Odyssey 2050” to more easily reach children who live in rural parts of the world, where Internet access may not be available.

“The real project is getting young people excited and involved,” Callow said.

“Odyssey 2050” is in the running in the Pepsi Refresh Project, a contest rewarding good ideas with $25,000 if they receive enough votes. Fans and supporters can cast their votes and show their support at www.refreshevery

To view the promotional short, search “Odyssey 2050” on YouTube. For more information on the project, go to www.odyssey

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