Meaningful cinema & UNSDGs

The People’s Choice Nominees of the Big Syn International Film Festival feature an array of powerful films that aims to inspire millions in creating a responsible future for all.

Category: Opinion | Date: October 11, 2019 | By: Bryan Duncan for the Big Syn Institute, London. UK.

The Big Syn International Film Festival features an array of powerful films and videos that aim to inspire millions in creating a responsible future for all.

The nominees for the People’s Choice Awards 2019 explore many themes that touch on the goals that inform the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and also coincides with the exemplary work carried out by this year’s chosen charities. 

Although there are many subjects explored in this year’s films, there are large overriding themes. Some of them are as below.

Mental Health 

This month (October 10th) sees Mental Health Awareness Day, so it’s fitting that a lot of the films featured in the People’s Choice Awards touch on this subject. Look at Me for a Moment deals with pregnancy related depression, while For a Better Life explores trauma through bleak but beautiful animation. Tommy Emmanuel – The Endless Road delves into the topics of self-destruction and addiction, while The Flight shows how a major event can cause thoughts of suicide and depression.

Mental health can be affected in many ways, and one of the BSIFF 2019 supported charities, Mind, offers support and advice for several mental health issues. One issue that effects mental health is the devastating disease cancer –  World Cancer Research Fund, another of this year’s supported charities does a lot of work in helping those affected by cancer. 

In terms of the UN SDGs,  the 3rd goal aims to, by 2030 “reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being”. 


Climate change, to pardon the pun, is a hot topic today, most recently with Greta Thunberg calling on millions to take action on climate change. It comes as no shock then that a lot of the nominees explore the subject.  Short animation Melty Hearts asks humanity to be less selfish and more caring towards the planet, while Dry Fly explores the survival of species in a inhospitable environment. 

Stop or Explode! meanwhile focuses on over-population, while The Kingcombe Centre Nature Documentary takes a different perspective and asks us to appreciate nature – something that is constantly under threat if action isn’t taken. Supported charity WWF strives to protect nature from destruction.  A lot of SDGs cover important environmental aspects, but goal 13 is a particularly prominent one – “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.


This is a broader theme, which branches out into different issues – gender equality, the well-being of children, respecting people’s dignity – but they all share the same goal of ensuring people have the same opportunities in life. 

Nonimee Purdah looks at how a girl’s dream of joining the senior woman’s cricket team is curbed by societal and cultural norms, while Padma and Shame of Puberty deal with how women are treated in an undignified way. Understanding touches on injustice, while Mother of Tibetans deals with a marginalised group and how one particular woman helps with their cause. 

Two of the supported charities help the cause of equality.  UNICEF helps save children’s lives, while Film & Television Charity supports those working in the industry with financial assistance to ensure equal opportunities.

The SDGs rightly cover a lot of ground on equality; 1) No Poverty, 2) No Hunger, 3) Good Health and Well-Being, 4) Quality Education, 5) Gender Equality and 10) Reduced Inequality. One of the targets in goal 10 is by 2030, “empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status” 

These three themes often intertwine with each other, and may look and feel different in different parts of the world, but certainly affect all of humanity.