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In 1971 a small group of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada in an old fishing boat. Their mission was to stop Nixon’s atomic test bomb in Amchitka, Alaska. Chronicling this untold story at the birth of the modern environmental movement and with access to dramatic archive footage unseen for over 40 years, the film centres on eco-hero Robert Hunter and his part in the creation of the global organization we now know as Greenpeace.

Alongside a group of like-minded and idealistic young friends in the ‘70s, Hunter would be instrumental in altering the way we look at the world and our place within it. These early pioneers captured their daring and sometimes jaw-dropping actions on film and from this director Jerry Rothwell has made a thrilling, sometimes terrifying film. A prizewinner at the Sundance Film Festival it is one of the must-see documentaries of 2015.


Learn more about HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD and connect with the film: 

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The Filmmakers

Jerry Rothwell Director

Jerry Rothwell is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes the award-winning feature documentaries, DONOR UNKNOWN (More 4/Arte/CBC/PBS/VPRO) about a sperm donor and his many offspring which premiered at Tribeca FF and was nominated for a Grierson Award; TOWN OF RUNNERS (PBS/Arte/RHK/ITVS/KINOSMITH) was released theatrically in the UK by Dogwoof and also premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. HEAVY LOAD (IFC/ITVS/BBC), about a group of people with learning disabilities who form a punk band, and DEEP WATER (Pathe/IFC/FilmFour/ UK Film Council, co-directed with Louise Osmond), about Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated voyage in the 1968 round the world yacht race winner of Best Cinema Documentary at The Rome Film Festival and winner of a Grierson Award for best Cinema Documentary. His most recent film is 2015 Sundance Festival award winner HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (BFI/Sky Atlantic/CTV) about the founders of Greenpeace. In 2012 Jerry won a prestigious Royal Television Award for his directing work on DONOR UNKNOWN and TOWN OF RUNNERS. His next film will be SOUR GRAPES for Netflix and Arte co-directed with Reuben Atlas. At Met Film Production, he has Executive Produced and worked as an editor on numerous feature docs including Dylan Williams' MEN WHO SWIM and Sarah Gavron's THE VILLAGE AT THE END OF THE WORLD.

Al Morrow Producer

Al Morrow is an award-winning producer and Head of Documentary at Met Film Production. Her producing credits include Jerry Rothwell's Sundance Festival Award Winner HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (BFI/Sky/CTV/Impact Partners); Jeanie Finlay's PANTOMIME (BBC Storyville); THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX (BBC, Creative Scotland, BBC Scotland) which premiered at SXSW and was nominated for a 2014 Grierson and 2013 BIFA Award; BAFTA winner Sarah Gavron's VILLAGE AT THE END OF THE WORLD which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival 2012; Jerry Rothwell's critically acclaimed theatrical documentary TOWN OF RUNNERS (Britdoc C4 Film Fund, PBS, Arte) which premiered at Tribeca FF; the Grierson Nominated Films DONOR UNKNOWN (Arte, More 4, VPRO) winner of the Tribeca (online) Audience Award and SYNC OR SWIM aka MEN WHO SWIM (BBC, ZDF/Arte, VPRO, SVT, PBS); DEEP WATER (Pathe, UKFC, FilmFour, IFC) directed by Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond, winner of the Grierson Award for Best Cinema Documentary and Best Documentary at Rome Film Festival; and Jerry Rothwell's HEAVY LOAD (BBC Storyville, IFCtv, ITVS). She is in production on SOUR GRAPES directed by Jerry Rothwell and REUBEN ATLAS for Netflix and Arte.


December 31, 1969

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Festivals & Awards

Sundance Film Festival


Winner - World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Editing

"Before it was the world’s largest activist organization, Greenpeace was the love child of an eclectic group of Vancouver neighbors (journalists, scientists, and hippies). United in their opposition to a U.S. atomic test on an Alaskan island, they sailed an aging fishing boat straight for the test site. Armed only with cameras and faith in the power of images, the rainbow warriors were born.

The byproduct of their media savvy is an archival treasure trove from which Jerry Rothwell has constructed a gripping chronicle of Greenpeace’s early history. Remarkable footage, audio recordings, and photographs capture its most dramatic, iconic, and poignant moments, from the remnants of mass slaughter at an abandoned whaling station to the maneuvering of Zodiacs between the whales and Russian harpoons.

How To Change The World unfolds as a hippie heist movie-turned-high sea adventure but remains an intimate portrait of the group’s original members and of activism itself—idealism vs. pragmatism, principle vs. compromise. They agreed that a handful of people could change the world; they just couldn’t agree how to do it." —J.N.

+ Festival Website

IDA Awards


Winner - Pare Lorentz Award

Sheffield Doc/Fest


Winner - Environmental Award

"The idea was simple: send a boat to bear witness, in the Quaker tradition, at the scene of a crime. When journalist turned environmentalist Bob Hunter carried out this plan, with a handful of other peaceniks, an ecological revolution was born. How to Change the Worldtakes us through the eventful early years of Greenpeace, from hiring a fishing boat to sail into nuclear testing waters in 1971, to the establishment of Greenpeace International in 1979. Director Jerry Rothwell's confident, breezy and layered style suits the group itself - an unlikely collection of mystics and mechanics. The huge media interest they attracted from their first save-the-whale-mission thrust the group into the international limelight, and fractures quickly developed. Rich archive and animation is interwoven with outspoken and sometimes conflicting interviews with Greanpeace founders, including Sea Shephard head Paul Watson, who admits he never bought into the "bear witness" ethos."  - Carol Nahra

+ Festival Website

True/False Festival


Official Selection

Hot Docs International Film Festival


Official Selection

Camden International Film Festival


Official Selection

Cinema Eye Honors


Nominee - Outstanding Achievement in Editing




Poetically descriptive”


A real-life thriller with larger-than-life heroes”

-The Huffington Post


The early activists of Greenpeace risked their lives to act courageously for the planet. Courage takes on many shapes and sizes – but it always takes a step outside of your comfort zone. Join an amazing network of people of many political stripes and all walks of life volunteering their time to create a more beautiful future.

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