Mark Decena to Big Corporations: No More ‘Profit Over People’

Not Without Us director on the fight against climate change and the fight for climate justice.

Think our environmental films only screen in March? Think, again.

The Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital partners with filmmakers, environmental experts, community activists and local organizations to host DCEFF 365, a year-round lineup of screenings and events that continue to use the power of film to advance our understanding of the environment and inspire positive action.

Next Thursday, August 18 at E Street Cinema, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital is hosting a 7:00 pm screening of Mark Decena’s Not Without Us.

Loyal Festival attendees may remember Decena from our 2012 Festival, when he premiered his first feature documentary, Watershed, about the Colorado River and the need for water conservations in the face of rising temperatures and lower rainfall.



His latest effort, Not Without Us, immerses us in the moving, personal journeys of seven grassroots activists from around the world as they prepare and head to Paris to challenge the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) that took place in Paris last December. Though, the deal made there was acclaimed as a historic success, there are pressing questions that still remain: Can the COP21 Agreement stop climate change? If it can’t, is it up to us?

We posed a few, enduring questions of our own to the director, in anticipation of his upcoming screening. Check out his answers below:


DCEFF: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

Mark Decena: My first feature film was accepted to the Sundance Film Festival, but I was strictly a narrative filmmaker. When I started to become more aware of the acute environmental and social issues facing us, I began to re-focus my storytelling efforts. Although I have grand plans to return to narrative films, I think the subject matter will be very different.

DCEFF: What drew you to this particular project?

MD: We attended the 2012 People’s Climate March in New York and were blown away by the attendance. They expected maybe 100,000 people and 400,000 showed up. The Climate Movement was finally gaining momentum, and we saw that they were mobilizing for Paris. What was of particular interest to us was the Climate Justice Movement. Not only fighting climate change, but understanding that those least responsible for putting carbon into the atmosphere were going to be hit first and worst by its effects.

DCEFF: What challenges did you face in the process of producing the project?

MD: Two weeks before the COP 21, the terror attacks happened in Paris. President Hollande declared a state of emergency and outlawed all of the mobilizations that were planned. It was, of course, tragic for all of the victims and their loved ones, but as filmmakers, we thought we had no ending to the film. The resilience of the activists we had been following for a year, proved to us otherwise.

DCEFF: What made you decide to submit/partner with DCEFF?

MD: DCEFF premiered my first feature documentary called Watershed. The DC audiences were engaged and well informed. I also think that one of the main points about Not Without Us, is for audiences to realize that governments, especially large international bodies can only do so much. At some point, it’s up to the people, the movements, to be the real driver’s of change. I can’t think of a better place to discuss that, than in the nations’ capital.

DCEFF: What’s the one takeaway that you want potential viewers to walk away with?

MD: The one thing I’d like viewers to walk away with is that the root causes of the destruction of the planet and the greatest inequality in the history of mankind are one in the same: a rapacious economic system that’s powered by fossil fuels and controlled by the .01%. Profit over people can not continue any longer.

DCEFF: How can viewers take action or get involved with the issue, after watching the film?

MD: Support the activists in the film, but also get involved yourself. The battles are all around us, and a lot closer than you think. Find out where your energy comes from and demand alternatives. Divest your 401K from fossil fuel based investments. And work to repeal Citizen’s United. Corporations are not people, and should not be allowed to own our political process.


Mark Decena is a writer, director, and producer of feature films, television programming, web films, and commercials. A three time Sundance alumni, Mark’s first feature, Dopamine (2003), won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. Decena’s documentary work spans themes of social justice, sustainable design, and the environment. He wrote and directed the Redford Center’s latest film, Watershed (2012), and was a writer and producer on Stand Up Planet, a Gates funded project currently on air on Participant Media’s channel, Pivot. Mark is also the founder of Kontent Films, a boutique production company based in San Francisco.

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