7th San Francisco Green Film Festival Preview

by on April 20, 2017

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Thanks to the ongoing environmental denialism of the Trump Administration, the films shown in the 7th edition of the San Francisco Green Film Festival are more important than ever.  Disappearing wildlife and climate change are expected subjects.  But who would have guessed they’d see films on playing pianos in natural settings or the Scottish farmer who got under Trump’s skin among the more than 70 films being screened?

The 7th San Francisco Green Film Festival runs from April 20 to 26, 2017.  Festival   venues include the Castro Theatre, the Koret Auditorium at S.F.’s Main Library, and the Roxie Theatre.  To help readers get a handle on the festival’s offerings, here are some suggestions on films and events of interest.

Mark Kitchell (“A Fierce Green Fire”) opens the festival with his new documentary “Evolution Of Organic.”  It traces the history of California’s organic farming movement.  What began with a motley group of back to the land types has become a full-fledged continuation of organic agriculture for a new generation of activists.

Archival film sources provide the raw material for the new Mark Cousins (“The Story Of Film”) documentary “Atomic: Living In Dread And Promise.”  Over a Mogwai soundtrack, Cousins shows how the arrival of the nuclear age has changed humanity.  On one hand, there have been Cold War tensions regarding atomic war and the horrifying Fukushima disaster.  On the other hand, X-rays and MRIs have saved many lives.

Judy Irving, Christopher Beaver, and Ruth Landy’s Emmy Award-winning documentary “Dark Circle” gets a 35th anniversary screening.  What begins as a science lesson about the nature of nuclear weapons turns into a human interest story thanks to the film’s focus on the effects of plutonium exposure on human beings. Irving and Landy will appear in person at the screening.

Also getting the revival treatment is David Vassar’s “Generation On The Wind.”  This restored documentary follows the 1978 efforts of a group of artists, mechanics, and environmental activists to build the world’s largest electricity-generating windmill.  Vassar will appear in person for a discussion and to show a sneak peek of his new desert film.

Flo Stone may not be a familiar name.  But her Washington D.C.-based Environmental Film Festival is celebrating its silver anniversary this year.  America’s oldest environmental film festival has inspired sister festivals across America, such as this San Francisco event.  Stone appears in person for “Inspiring Lives: A Conversation With Flo Stone.”

In Anthony Baxter’s documentary “You’ve Been Trumped,” Scottish farmer Michael Forbes and his relatives got subjected to hardball deceit and intimidation by the Trump organization for opposing its luxury golf resort plans.  Now the festival is showing Baxter’s five-years-later sequel “You’ve Been Trumped Too.”  Part of the film looks at the hollow legacy of the Trump resort, particularly its leaving 90-ish grandmother Molly Forbes without running water for years.  But another part follows Forbes’ attempts to convince Trump’s supporters to not let Trump become president.

Baxter will also show footage collected from over two years of filming for his current work in progress, the documentary “Flint.”  It’s a look at how lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water led to one of America’s worst mass poisonings.

Those who think no link exists between climate change and national security need to watch Roger Sorkin’s “Tidewater.”  Hampton Roads, Virginia, happens to be the world’s largest naval base.  Thanks to climate change, the base is endangered by both rising waters and sinking land.  Sorkin chronicles the Hampton community’s efforts to save their town and maybe offer a model for creating a more resilient America.

Award-winning Centerpiece film “Rise: Standing Rock” shows how plans to run the Dakota Access Pipeline through Sioux ancestral lands sparked an amazing pan-tribal protest.  Director Michelle Latimer’s film demonstrates how the Standing Rock fight is the new iteration of “Native Americans versus State and corporations determined to dispossess them and exploit their natural resources.”

Mischa Hedges’ “Women’s March” covers the January 2017 Washington, D.C. march which declared women’s rights are human rights and will not be ignored.  The march and its national and international sister marches became the largest one day political march in U.S. history…and deservedly upstaged Trump’s inauguration.

Green Tenacity Award winner “Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas” covers the new trend of African colonialism through foreign investment in farmland.  Joakim Demmer shows that what the World Bank calls a poverty-eradicating move is to Ethiopians a barrier to their land, their livelihood, and their food.

The Green Film Festival also offers a second chance to see Jiu-liang Wang’s disturbing documentary “Plastic China.”  Set in a homebrew Chinese plastic recycling factory, the film follows two families.  One family owns the factory.  The other is headed by an alcoholic father who continually blocks his daughter’s receiving an education.  Despite their economic differences, neither family realizes that the First World plastic waste they work with exposes them to toxins.

Delila Vallot’s documentary “Can You Dig This” takes viewers to South Los Angeles.  A quartet of urban gardeners in this community hope growing stuff can turn this food desert district into something life-changing.  Among the subjects followed are a little girl trying to get her father to eat more greens and a renegade gardener who turns his home into a food forest.

This year’s S.F. Green Film Festival closes out with Dean Mermell’s documentary “Twelve Pianos.”  Half Moon Bay artist and musician Mauro ffortissimo decides to turn his daily habit of playing an old grand piano to passing whales from a nearby bluff into an art installation.  The unusual personal project grows from dotting the San Mateo Coast to reaching the streets of San Francisco.

Obviously, there are many more films and events than space to describe them.  But whatever film or event readers choose to attend and learn from, they should know that their action helps resist Trump administration efforts to keep Americans ignorant of the damage humanity inflicts on Mother Earth.

(For further information about the films described here, go to www.greenfilmfest.org .)

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment