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Exciting News: ‘A River in the Sky’ premieres at PIWEFF

A Nature & Wildlife Film by marysejansenart

My first documentary screened at international film festival

'A River in the Sky' by MaryseJansenArt - Title
‘A River in the Sky’ by MaryseJansenArt

My experience of the 2022 floods in Queensland

It’s late February 2022. It’s raining hard, non-stop. This has been going on for a couple of days now and the soil was already sodden before this extreme rain event started, as we’re at the end of a very wet summer. All this water simply has nowhere to go. As I live on the top of a hill the water can only go down from here. My garden turns into a myriad of rivers and waterfalls. As I am walking through my yard I’m up to my ankles in the water!

All this water and that from the properties around me flows on to the streets, through the gardens, joined by more water from lower lying areas, to wherever it can find a way to join the river. A river which is flooding to peak heights. In the news they call this extreme rain event an ‘atmospheric river in the sky’, dumping all its contents over Queensland and New South Wales. Many houses are flooded, but thankfully not mine.

A few days later, the river has come down a lot, but still massive amounts of water are being released from the local dam. This will continue for weeks on end. As the sky is now blue and the sun is shining, it’s almost as if it never happened…. But when I go out and explore the areas that have been inundated I can clearly see the damage the raging river has done to the landscape.

The return of wildlife after the floods

It doesn’t take long before the wildlife starts to return. Despite the murky river water, the ducks and egrets are about looking for food. Little Fairy-wrens hop about in the bushes. When the land begins to dry, an explosion of growth of ground vegetation such as grasses takes place. This creates an abundance of food for little seed eaters like the Red-browed Finches. The abundance of water attracts other wildlife too and I spot many damselflies and dragonflies, butterflies, water dragons and lots more bird species. It is quite spectacular to witness this recovery!

Nature is resilient, but it takes time to recover from extreme events such as these. The raging water wiped away lots of trees which will take years to decades to regrow. Thousands of animals drowned. Amongst them were koalas, which was of course a terrible blow to their declining population. And now I finally see one again, a couple of months later. And it seems to be looking around wistfully to where its favourite food trees have gone…

We are all keeping our fingers crossed that the la Nina phase will end this year so that something like this doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

My first film: ‘A River in the Sky’

Fast forward to the end of 2022. Nature has kept on recovering. New trees have been planted. The koalas are entering their breeding season. I see an announcement for PIWEFF on my screen. PIWEFF is the first Pakistan International Wildlife and Eco Film Festival. Their mission is to create awareness and educate people about climate change through story telling in film and move them into environmental action. A great cause! And they are calling for entries.

My story of the floods is the perfect story to create climate change awareness as well as a platform to showcase some of Australia’s beautiful wildlife. So I decide to enter my first documentary ‘A River in the Sky’ in this festival. A few months later, I am thrilled to hear that my film has been selected!


Syed Hasnain Raza is the man behind the initiative for PIWEFF. He is a renowned wildlife and conservation film maker and Founder of Find Focus Films. He is also a National Geographic Certified Educator. I have the honour to be able to ask him a couple of questions about the festival.

He states: ‘Pakistan is the 6th most vulnerable country to climate change and there is so much that is needed to be done to mitigate the climate crisis. Pakistan lacks in basic education and awareness. The education system is not that strong and over the years there hasn’t been any strong emphasis on environmental education.

‘We now have 80 million smart phone users with no or zero formal and informal education on the climate crisis. 60% Of these people are under the age of 24 and that is our target audience. We felt that the fastest way to make a change was to tap into internet and smart phone content consumption and target through social media. For this purpose we launched PIWEFF: the Pakistan International Wildlife & Eco Film Festival.’

‘A River in the Sky’ screened at PIWEFF

My film ‘A River in the Sky’ was one of the 18 international entries that were part of the festival. ‘Our team review of the film was that it was a pure nature embracing film where there is no music but nature and the sounds of nature are the music. The shots were well composed’, says Raza. During the two days of the festival around 500 people attended. There was a capacity for about 180 people to be in the hall at any one time and Raza let me know that 130 people saw my film. ‘When the koala appeared on the screen a sound of ‘wow’ rose up from the audience!’

There was also a similar number of local entries. The wildlife film making industry in Pakistan is in it’s early days but the festival will give it a good boost. The festival will also be taken to the 200 plus universities and colleges in Pakistan to increase its outreach. After a successful first edition, bigger screenings and bigger halls are planned for the future.

Watch the trailer of my documentary below. You can find some additional information on my project page on FilmFreeway.

To visit my image ‘Wistful’ of the koala, click here

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