WhateverTree WhateverTree

“A dead tree goes viral, attracting wildlife, a nature lover, and a crowd of online followers.

Film by Isaac King, Canada, 2020. Made with the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Arts Council.

Screened at Ottawa, Animateka, Uppsala Int’l Film Festival, and Chicago Int’l Children’s Film Festival, among others. Winner of best short film for children at KUKI Int’l Children’s Film Festival (Germany).

Making-of on filmmaker’s website. Notes from the filmmaker:

In 2017, a concussion forced me away from computer screens. I spent more time outdoors, drawing characters in nature. As I identified species, I learned about native plants and ecosystems. I started sharing my work on social media, and the positive feedback that came with every “like” or “follow” encouraged me. I was physically connecting with nature, and virtually connecting with people online. It led me to examine the role of nature in our digital age.

WhateverTree tells the story of how a dead tree becomes an online viral meme and selfie destination. It also describes how the “wildlife tree” is home to fungi, insects and other creatures, performing a unique role in the forest ecosystem. Louise observes and records wildlife with her smartphone, representing E.O. Wilson’s “biophilia” hypothesis – that humans innately seek connections with nature. In contrast, Logan takes a selfie in front of the tree, vainly proclaiming human dominance. Consumed by their screens, Logan’s followers are ambivalent to the wonders of nature. Indifferent to both human narcissism and conservation efforts, the tree falls, returning nutrients to the soil and renewing the forest.

These digital and ecological connections reflect our attitudes toward nature: concerned, indifferent, or exploitative – determining if we’ll live within or against the natural world. Since the global pandemic began, our social media and smartphone dependance/addiction has increased, but so has the urge to connect with nature and the outdoors. WhateverTree highlights our connections, between humans and all life, in this time of crisis.

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