Metamorphosis: a new hope

Bosco Verticale 1, Milan. | Photo courtesy of Velcrow Ripper

Directed by Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami, the documentary Metamorphosis is being called a “poem for the planet” by the National Film Board of Canada. It looks at the true scale of the global environmental crisis. From forest fires that consume communities, species vanishing at an astounding rate and entire ecosystems collapsing, Metamorphosis covers it all.

Metamorphosis also delves into the efforts made by people to adapt and preserve the planet. For example, architects in Milan design urban towers covered with trees and bushes that reduce CO2, produce oxygen and give new life to the city. New innovations such as this are driving change.Vancity Theatre will be hosting the B.C. premiere of Metamorphosis on June 26.

Change as motivation

The devastating events and changes that unfolded after a natural disaster inspired the two filmmakers.

“When we first started talking about the film, typhoon Haiyan had just happened in the Philippines and over 6000 people had been killed. We were struck by the tragedy of it all and how it changed people’s lives and how we are changing because of what is happening to our planet,” says Ami.

When it came to constructing the film and sticking to its theme, the monarch butterfly was an obvious metaphor.

“During our creative process we had themes we used as scaffolding for the film. We started with chrysalis followed by crisis followed by catharsis and then symbiosis. So the metaphor of the butterfly going through metamorphosis was something we thought was quite apt for our species,” adds Ami.

During the filming of Metamorphosis, the husband and wife team had their own big change: going from being a family of two, to a family of three.

“The biggest surprise during the filming was having a baby while making a movie. We spent three years traveling around the world and he came with us,” says Ripper.

“We just basically had to be open to whatever was happening at the moment and we couldn’t plan certain things. We never made a film before while having a baby so everything was a surprise,” says Ami.

Garden pools and small changes

Directors Nova Ami (left)
and Velcrow Ripper (right). | Photo by Grant Baldwin

The film shows how for residents in Phoenix, Arizona, swimming pools are repurposed into backyard ecosystems, lush with plants and fish that generate food for people. In California, a company is installing solar panels in underserved communities. This gives clean energy to families who would not have had access to it before and also creates a new industry that cannot be outsourced. It talks of changes great and small that can be implemented.

“We don’t have to change our backyard swimming pools into garden pools, but we can learn to repurpose what we already have and use that instead of always buying something new. This is how we stop the disposable culture and keep everything in use,” Ripper explains.

Immersive filmmaking

Woven through the stories of change are also stories of artists tackling the subject matter of climate change: one such artist is Jean Paul Bourdier, a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, who photographs models covered in body paint and then blends them into the wild or a stark environment. Both Ami and Ripper agree that when it came to challenges in the filming process, Bourdier was definitely a tough one.

“Of all the things we filmed his shoot was really hard. We off-roaded to these really remote places… we did not know where we were going. We just followed him and his gear,” says Ami.

“It was the desert, it was hot and in the Utah backlands he paints people and merges them with the landscape. At one point we volunteered to be painted,” adds Ripper.

Opportunity for transformation

Ami and Ripper hope the film does not just educate but also inspires the audience.

“I hope they see that hope is a choice and that they can either decide to give up or choose hope,” Ami says.

Ripper adds that the film’s overall message is to see crisis as an opportunity for change.

“We wanted to do something that is different. We wanted to do something that was inspiring and beautiful and it is a movie to see on the big screen. It’s not like you go and eat your greens and watch this film,” they agree.

For more information, please visit