News | August 26, 2016

Southern Exposure celebrates 5 years of storytelling through films about Alabama’s environment

With a premiere scheduled for September 8 in Birmingham, Southern Exposure will soon give audiences their first look at this year’s collection of films.

Each summer, the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship brings emerging filmmakers to Birmingham to learn about Alabama’s pressing environmental issues and meet the individuals and organizations working to protect one of the most ecologically and geologically diverse states in the U.S.

Over the course of six weeks this summer, six talented filmmakers traveled all over the state to meet with community members, elected officials, scientists, business owners, riverkeepers, and other conservation groups, resulting in six films about Alabama’s environment and the triumphs and struggles to preserve its abundance of natural wonders and scenic beauty.

“Throughout the past five years, these gifted filmmakers have been effective in bringing some of the biggest environmental challenges in Alabama into focus,” said Keith Johnston, Managing Attorney of SELC’s Birmingham office. “The Southern Exposure films illustrate much better than mere words some of the more urgent issues facing our state and what can be done to address them.”

The six 2016 films cover a wide range of topics, including the fellowship’s first animated piece:

  • Questions around the impacts of dams on Alabama’s rivers, its wildlife, and its people
  • The bipartisan support behind the fight to keep Alabama’s State Parks System funded
  • The contrast between the perception of Alabama as a low-cost dumping ground for other states’ waste, while also emerging as a central figure in the lucrative recycling industry
  • An animated look at the oyster as an indicator species for the health of the Gulf
  • The rise of residential programs offering easy, affordable energy efficiency solutions to low-income Alabama residents, who would otherwise be spending half of their income on energy costs
  • The decrepit status of Alabama’s wastewater treatment facilities, and the important role of citizen action in the absence of agency enforcement

“To make a film from start to finish in six weeks is no easy feat, and that compressed timeframe is very unusual in documentary filmmaking,” said Michele Forman, Program Director for the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship. “The fellows must research their subjects and film everything they come across–all of the interviews, events, getting shots at a variety of locations–and edit it all together to make a compelling and clear story.”

Films from previous fellowship years have spanned a range of topics, from uplifting success stories like the movement to reinstate the Forever Wild Land Trust, to the policy barriers standing in the way of Alabama’s statewide solar success, to a rare view of the breath-taking wonders found in the vast underground cave system in northern Alabama.

The 2016 Southern Exposure films will premiere in Birmingham on Thursday, September 8 at 7 p.m. at the Altamont School’s Cabaniss-Kaul Center for the Arts.

A screening will also be hosted by USA-Baldwin County in Fairhope on Thursday, September 22 at 7 p.m. at the USA-Baldwin County Performance Center. All events are free and open to the public.

To learn more about the program, visit or follow the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship on Facebook.