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Being in the World: Bigger Than Us

Climate Series, Being in the World Film Festival

dateOctober 27, 2022 timeThursday, 7:00pm–9:30pm EDT location Horace Mann Hall, Cowin Auditorium (Room 147), Teachers College
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Cultural Services of the French Embassy
  • Columbia Climate School
  • University Institute for Ideas and Imagination
  • Columbia Global Centers | Paris
  • Alliance Program
  • European Institute
  • Knapp Family Foundation
  • Maison Française
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Person walking on a wall between the ocean and a city

Documentary film screening followed by a discussion and Q&A with Director Flore Vasseur and Francesco Fiondella, moderated by Shanny Peer.

Bigger Than Us by Flore Vasseur, 2020

96 minutes.

Film in French and other languages with English subtitles.

Filmed in Malawi, Lebanon, Brazil, the U.S., Greece, Indonesia and Uganda, Bigger Than Us is a feature-length documentary about seven inspiring teenage and young adult activists engaging, like many in their generation, in a struggle for human rights, freedom of expression, social and environmental justice, women’s rights, access to education and food, and a liveable climate. In Indonesia, Melati leads an effort to fight the plastic pollution ravaging her country. Mohamad is a Syrian refugee who built a school when he was still a teenager himself to teach Syrian refugee children living in temporary camps in Lebanon. Winnie began organizing as a teenager and succeeded in changing the legal marriage age from 15 to 18 in Malawi. Memory bought herself an education by carrying food to her teachers in Uganda and now helps refugee farmers in her country learn permaculture to rehabilitate soils ravaged by chemical pesticides and overuse. Mary rescues migrants crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece. Rene created a newspaper at age 11 in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Xiuhtezcatl battles against fracking and environmental racism in Colorado on behalf of his ancestors and future generations. All of them set an admirable and inspiring example in their quest to preserve human dignity and protect the natural environment, and to engage passionately in something “bigger than us.”

To watch the trailer, please click here.


Flore Vasseur is a French novelist, director and producer. An entrepreneur in New York at the age of 24, Flore Vasseur lived through the Internet bubble, September 11 and a capitalist system that was cracking on all sides. Since then, she has written books, articles and television documentaries to understand the end of one world and the emergence of another. Her latest book, What Remains of Our Dreams, is an investigative novel about the little-known real-life story of Aaron Swartz, the child prodigy of code who wanted us to be free, persecuted by the Obama administration. Bigger than Us is her first documentary film.

Francesco Fiondella manages IRI’s communications team and oversees their strategic communications and media relations, and teaches science communication. Fiondella has worked as a science communicator for more than 15 years, using his writing and photography to convey how some of the world’s most vulnerable people struggle with the realities of climate, and what scientists are doing about it. He shared some thoughts about climate communication here. He is especially interested in ways to bring science into the public sphere through collaborations with artists, photographers and other cultural messengers. Follow him on twitter via @fiondella and @climatesociety. His photography portfolio is here. You can find out more about him on


Shanny Peer has been Director of the Columbia Maison Française since 2009. She earned a Ph.D. from New York University’s Institute of French Studies in 1992 and taught French Studies for ten years, at the University of Vermont and then NYU, where she was the only non-tenured faculty member to receive a Golden Dozen Award for teaching excellence in 1997. She was then Director of Policy Programs at the French-American Foundation for 8 years and worked briefly at Families and Work Institute on work-family policies before joining Columbia University.

This screening is part of Being in the World: People and the Planet in French and Francophone Cinema, a film festival curated and presented by Columbia Maison Française, with additional support provided by Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Columbia Climate School, Knapp Family Foundation, Paul LeClerc Centennial Fund, Columbia University Institute for Ideas and Imagination, Columbia Global Centers | Paris, Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Alliance Program, and European Institute.