YOUTH v GOV, a transformative film directed by former WITNESS partner Christi Cooper about the unparalleled work of another former partner, Our Children’s Trust, premieres at the prestigious DOC NYC Film Festival from November 11-19, 2020.

Tickets can be purchased here.

The next chance to watch this must-see film won’t be until 2021 so don’t miss out on this special pre-release debut from  from Barrelmaker Productions and Vulcan Productions!

Here’s the backstory: 

Juliana v. U.S. is internationally celebrated as ‘No Ordinary Lawsuit’. Twenty-one young people from every corner of the United States brought this landmark case against the United States government in 2015. They did so with the support of Our Children’s Trust (OCT) and in concert with the world’s leading experts in climate science, constitutional law, political science, history, religion, economics, and health. 

This case asks the court to answer one simple question: Do young people have a constitutional right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life? In a sharply divided two-to-one decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined they don’t. In the commanding dissent reminiscent of former United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Judge Josephine Staton meticulously detailed why the Court’s opinion is wrong. Judge Staton asked,

Where is the hope in today’s decision? Plaintiffs’ claims are based on science, specifically, an impending point of no return. If plaintiffs’ fears, backed by the government’s own studies, prove true, history will not judge us kindly. When the seas envelop our coastal cities, fires and droughts haunt our interiors, and storms ravage everything between, those remaining will ask: Why did so many do so little?

Hope may still come from our judicial branch. The 21 young plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing by the full Court panel and are awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit. The petition simply gives the Court the opportunity to reverse its erroneous finding. Regardless of what the Ninth Circuit ultimately decides, the definitive answer to Judge Staton’s question is this: Hope lies with today’s youth – not only the Juliana 21 but young people around the world. And DOC NYC will debut the film that shows us why.  

YOUTH v GOV follows Juliana v. U.S.  through the unprecedented legal shenanigans the U.S. Department of Justice constructed to keep this case from moving forward. It exposes decades of a deliberate government cover-up. It shows us how climate change is violating our basic human rights now. And, at its heart, it chronicles the inspiring stories of the young people bringing this case. Just as Juliana v. U.S. is no ordinary lawsuit, YOUTH v GOV is no ordinary story. It is a must-watch for anyone who cares about future generations and our planet.

WITNESS is sharing the pre-release opportunity to watch this film because we believe that all human rights defenders need an acute understanding of why solving the climate crisis must be woven into all our human rights efforts. We need to understand that if we fail to solve the climate crisis, we not only exacerbate human rights abuses, we also prevent solutions to the world’s most entrenched human rights challenges. This understanding is why we, alongside OCT, co-produced the ten-part series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery in early 2011. These short films – many which were co-directed by Christi Cooper – inspired Christi to tell the bigger story. 

We also encourage you to sign up for updates on the public release of the film and upcoming impact campaign that will accompany YOUTH v GOV and share this story. Share it with your friends. Share it with your elected officials. Share it with your children’s teachers. 

You will also want to follow OCT’s work. To date, OCT has taken legal action in all 50 U.S. States with more cases in the works. Globally, this team supports and inspires legal efforts of youth suing their governments in 20 countries worldwide. No matter the decisions in these cases, OCT and the youth plaintiff they represent sparked an avalanche of strategic climate cases that take a rights-based approach and made significant progress building a durable legal architecture that, someday, will ensure we all have the basic right to a climate system capable of sustaining humanity. As Juliana plaintiff Nick Venner so succinctly shares, “[The case] can be the foundation for a lot of other legal cases and more importantly we can show how the current system is broken and how it can be improved. It can be a beacon of hope to others.”

Enjoy the film, and join the movement!


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