What does a story about global progress look like?

Now, how do you tell that story in eight minutes or less? 

More than 700 filmmakers across the globe tried to answer these questions as part of this year’s Picture This Festival for the Planet, a short-film competition for emerging filmmakers hosted by Sony and the United Nations Foundation. 

The ultimate aim? To illustrate and inspire action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

This week, finalists from eight different countries will fly to Los Angeles, California to tour the Sony Pictures Studio lot, participate in training workshops, and attend a screening of the final eight films. The festival’s panel of judges—including the Foundation’s Deputy Chief Executive Elizabeth Cousens—will determine which filmmaker will receive the grand prize: A Sony A6500 camera and a SEL1670 lens. 

These short films explore global goals like clean energy, access to education, and environmental sustainability through a variety of storytelling techniques, including comedy, animation, and documentary interviews. One submission even borrowed from the horror movie genre. 

Watch all eight short films and share your favorite on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #SPTPictureThis. 

Atlantis Real Estate
Yatri Niehaus, Germany

In his short film, Yatri Niehaus of Germany introduces his viewers to a fictitious real estate agent looking to capitalize on climate change, asking the simple question: “We’re changing the climate. Who changes us?”

The Conductor
Bethany Borg, U.K.

Based in the U.K., filmmaker Bethany Borg created an animated world in which one man commits “citywide plant anarchy” to bring nature back to his urban environment.

Flying Home
Daniel Mendoza, Mexico

Featuring stunning cinematography from the jungles of southeastern Mexico, Daniel Mendoza’s short film shares how students, researchers, policymakers, and activists joined forces to reintroduce Scarlet Macaws to the wild.   

Mr. Garbage
Mark Lee, Malaysia

Using gorgeous and shocking images from his home country’s Ketam Island, filmmaker Mark Lee of Malaysia examines the issue of ocean pollution and conservation through the story of a fourth-generation fisherman-turned-environmentalist.

Sayang Kalimantan
Wally Tham, Singapore

This short film from Wally Tham of Singapore documents how the filmmaker and his colleagues spent two years designing and building Indonesia’s first functioning haze shelter in the town of Kalimantan.

Vinamra Pancharia, India

This moving five-minute film from Vinamra Pancharia of India follows the story of a homeless orphan and his efforts to receive an education—and empower himself with his own name.

Vaya Huevos Ecológicos
Manuel J. Lacasa & Francisco T. Navarro Ruescas, Spain

Manuel J. Lacasa and Francisco T. Navarro Ruescas of Spain examine the horrors of food waste in this three-minute film, warning viewers: “Don’t turn your back on your conscience!”

Why Do You Give?
Carolyn Meub & Jake Cunavelis, USA

Created by Carolyn Meub and Jake Cunavelis, this video highlights why supporters of the Pure Water for the World organization strive to make clean water and sanitation available for the most vulnerable.

Eager for more? Follow the UN Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for live discussions with the filmmakers and the Grand Prize Winner announcement!