Capturing climate change
Durango filmmakers document effects of sea levels on India’s low-lying regions

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Durango filmmaker Nick Manning gets behind the camera in New Delhi on the balcony of the India Club last November. Manning and Tyler Quintano have undertaken an ambitious film to document the impacts of climate change on India and Bangladesh./Courtesy photo

by Will Sands

Durango’s silver screens won’t be showing the work of Nick Manning and Tyler Quintano this week, but their subject matter won’t ever be far from local theaters. The two Durango filmmakers are currently fighting to bring global warming into focus with “The Sundarban Project.” Taking a stab a frugal filmmaking, the pair has mixed seasonal work with shoestring cinema and plans to have their documentary on climate change on screen early this summer.

Quintano and Manning became interested in the Sundarban region of India and Bangladesh several years ago. The low-lying and impoverished coastal region is becoming one of the biggest casualties of global warming as the combination of rising sea levels and tidal surge from cyclones devas

tate whole cities and islands. In 2006, the first inhabited island of the Sundarban region, Lohachara, was submerged as a result of rising sea levels and global warming, and the 10,000 people who lived there became landless refugees. To make matters worse, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a dire prediction for

India and Bangladesh. The group estimates that the refugee count could go as high as 5.5 million with as little as 45 centimeters in sea rise.

“Whole islands are disappearing with tens of thousands of people living on them,” Quintano said. “We figured that documenting this tragedy would provide a useful perspective on global warming.”

A Durango native and Fort Lewis College graduate, Quintano’s first foray into filmmaking resulted in “The Hills of Caracas.” The film, which documents poverty in the area surrounding the Venezuelan city, opened last year’s Durango Independent Film Festival. Together with Manning, a fellow Durango native and Fort Lewis student, Quintano dove into the Sundarban Project last fall. The pair landed in Delhi in mid-November, thanks to more than $5,000 in community support and funds saved from a season of hotshot firefighting in Alaska. In a twisted piece of luck, the pair also touched down just as Cyclone Sidr, a category 4 hurricane, slammed into the coast of Bangladesh.

“We were planning on focusing on the Sundarban region and islands,” Manning said. “But we landed at the same time as Sidr. The main threat of sea-level rise is tidal surge, which is directly tied to cyclones. So because of that event, the project’s scope has expanded.”

Manning and Quintano are taking a very human approach to the Sundarban Project, traveling to villages and urban areas and letting the people on the ground tell the tale.

“Our plan has always been to put a human face on climate change,” Manning said. “And our crew is made up of two people. We’re small, and we’re mobile. When we got there we were able to get out there and get the story.”

Students at a school in Bangladesh wait for cyclone relief last November, not long after hurricane Sidr devastated that country’s coast./ Courtesy photo

The pair found much of their story along the coast of Bangladesh, where coastline, atolls and islands are literally vanishing before people’s eyes. “At one point, we were filming a family,” Quintano said. “They’re standing on this stretch of empty beach, and they start showing us where their house was, where their kitchen used to be and where they used to keep their chickens. Now it’s nothing but water.”

Quintano and Manning also captured more than changes in sea level. The pair documented the increasing severity and frequency of storms in the region along with the loss of agriculture, as salinity denudes once fertile cropland.

“The people had always been able to deal with this,” Manning said. “Now it’s getting to the point where the storms are too big and too frequent. It’s all happening too fast.”

On Feb. 6, the pair returned to the United States and Durango with more than 50 hours of film footage. After nearly four months in India and Bangladesh, Manning and Quintano also returned to the shock that some in their country still dispute climate change.

“It’s strange to us that people are still even having the debate,” Manning said. “You go to other places, where people are more connected to the earth, and there’s no disputing it.”

In the three weeks since they’ve been back in Durango, Manning and Quintano have been shoveling roofs to pay the bills and editing film during down time. And they will put the finishing touches on the Sundarban Project a few dollars at a time.

“We’re two guys who are firefighters and blue collar laborers, and we managed to get out there and get this incredible footage,” Manning said. “We’re still just cranking along on this project.”

Manning and Quintano plan to have a final edit of the film complete prior to this summer. At that point, they’ll take the Sundarban Project on the film festival circuit and hope for a distributor to pick it up. After that, they’ll go back fighting fires and amassing funds for whatever attracts their cameras next.

“Some of our hotshot friends will work all summer so they ski bum all winter or just blow it all on a big truck,” Quintano concluded. “We’ve always thought of better ways to spend our money.”

For information on the Sundarban Project, visit



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