How concerned should we be about climate change? Olivia Ahnemann's new film tackles that controversial question.
Olivia Ahnemann was feeling a little nervous.
The Kiwi-American documentary producer was about to unveil her new film to a large crowd in Lexington, Kentucky, a southern state of America.
Lexington's economy is fuelled by coal. Ahnemann's new film is about climate change.
So how'd that go?
"We got a standing ovation," Ahnemann, who was born in New Zealand, tells Weekend on the phone from her home in Boulder, Colorado.
"It's amazing to think an environmental film can play in a southern state ... it's remarkable they responded so positively."
If Ahnemann's new film, The Human Element, can find an audience in Lexington, it's likely to find it elsewhere.
Shot over two and a half years, it follows James Balog, a photographer who morphed from capturing stunning wildlife images to documenting the front lines of climate change.
With the film full of natural disasters that could be attributed to climate change, Ahnemann admits it can make for distressing viewing.
"How do you stay positive? You're looking at all the news, every season, wildfires are getting worse, every year, hurricanes are getting more frequent ... how do you reconcile all of this?" she asks.
To answer that question, The Human Element focuses on personal stories - people forced to move from their homes by rising water, or suffering health issues because of pollution.
It shows, says Ahnemann, the human cost of what's happening in our environment.
"Climate change can seem like such a far-off, distant thing for most people," she says. "It's not for a land far, far away. We're experiencing it right now."
Rather than shock people, Ahnemann hopes viewers can relate the stories in the film to their own experiences of climate change.
She only has to look out the window of her home in Colorado to see the evidence for herself.
"We get longer and hotter spells in summer, we get less snow in the winter. In the last five years we've had two major natural disaster events ... even just the crocuses coming out in February when they shouldn't make an appearance until March. Yeah, we do feel it."
Is New Zealand immune? Despite our isolating distance from the rest of the world, Ahnemann points to recent floods in Auckland as proof that we're not.
"My parents ... sent me a couple of photos of Tamaki Drive earlier this year completely flooded. That's the exact same story we're telling in North Virginia ... water inundation where it doesn't regularly occur."
Having produced a film about the affects of climate change, she has some pretty stern words for those who still think climate change is a myth - particularly those living in New Zealand.
"I imagine the impact of sea level rise is going to be pretty intense, particularly along those nice sandy shorelines and those beach bachs that are built right up to the edge of the water.
"I don't know that they'll be there, or have as much beach front, in 50 years."
But Ahnemann, who will be in New Zealand next week to showcase her film at two premieres in Auckland and Wellington, before The Human Element goes live online for free viewing, says it's not all bad news.
"When I look on a global level, the influx of technology is going to help us. A younger generation, who become vocal citizens, who don't see climate change as a political issue, they're all really positive developments," she says.
"The part that feels a little bit bleak is, can we do enough in a short amount of time?"
• Olivia Ahnemann will present The Human Element at its Auckland premiere, Grand Millennium, October 9, 7.30pm. It's also available for free viewing at pureadvantage.org/thehumanelement.