Green films for a better future
by Erin Blackwell
Movies are synonymous with escape. It's a downer for some people to have to watch a film about reality. Yet images can tell startling truths in memorable ways, and independent films can escape the pressures of the military-industrial-Hollywood complex of propaganda fabrication and dissemination. Our town is blessed to be the home of a most forward-thinking film festival, and no, it's not about drones, driverless cars, or life on Mars. The Green Film Festival raises consciousness of consequences to the ecosystem of human activities. Tonight through April 26, at the Castro, Roxie, and 518 Valencia, catch up on the latest planet-saving techniques.
Two dozen feature-length documentaries, a dozen short films and animated shorts are complemented by discussions with filmmakers and conservationists. Activism, agriculture, art, biodiversity, deforestation, fish, food, gardening, giraffes, homelessness, lead, nuclear power, oil, plastic, rivers, Trump, whales, and wilderness are some of the areas explored. Bolivia, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Faroe Islands, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, and Syria are among the countries covered, although Anglophone producers dominate, chiefly USA, UK, and Canada.
It's hard to know where to start after deciding to change the world for the better, even in so simple a matter as picking which socially conscious film to watch. Might I suggest giraffes? As a docent at the zoo, I've seen them up-close and met Dr. Julian Fennessey, their point man in Africa. It seems unbelievable this iconic species could be allowed, or rather forced, to disappear. There's a complex web of reasons why these great and beautiful creatures are now facing extinction: colonial slaughter of African animals, exploitation of native resources by foreign agents, civil disorder and political breakdown driven by global corporate greed. Get the facts while it's still time to act. The Last of the Longnecks. (Roxie, 4/22)
Then there's nuclear power, the insane risk we're forced to live with by the experts. This septuagenarian hobgoblin is represented by a stream-of-consciousness archival montage, Atomic: Living in Dread & Promise (Roxie, 4/21), and two vintage features: one fictional comedy, one documentary tragedy. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) has a testosterone overdrive that echoes the current White House. Stanley Kubrick's knife-edge satire about the idiots in charge of the atom bomb features an embarrassment of great performances, including Peter Sellers' titular crypto Nazi and Sterling Hayden's bomb-straddling four-star general. (Roxie, 4/25)
Dark Circle (1982) is a masterpiece of poetical political storytelling, piecing together personal anecdote, archival footage, and in-depth reporting to guide the viewer from the end-of-war nuclear bombing of Nagasaki to the domestic battleground of nuclear power plants. Directors Judy Irving, Christopher Beaver, and Ruth Landy depict the criminal folly of the government's testing in the Southwest, and the dilemma of families in range of the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. The film ends on the fleeting success of direct action against the Diablo Canyon Plant in California. The gentle thoughtfulness of the voiceover makes this condemnation of the nuclear age a nail-biting heartbreaker. (Roxie, 4/23, in 35mm)
The crazy thing about Homo sapiens is the extent to which we're hell-bent on destroying the environment we're completely dependent on to survive. Not to mention every other species. Green Fest presents films that don't lie about the damage we're doing, and even better, demonstrate the possibility of resisting, stopping, and reversing mass-murder trends in human behavior. These films put the bad news into a context from which good news can emerge. The Fest does its best to provide opportunities for feedback at every screening, plus workshops, speakers, and even a 5 p.m. Happy Hour at 518 Valencia over the weekend. Be there or be in denial. greenfilmfest.org.