Six of many movies worth checking out [2007 festival]
This final installment of my series of reviews of films shown at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival features six minireviews.
"Light in the Himalaya." For decades, eye surgeon Geoff Tabin enjoyed the grand opportunity to climb the world's highest mountains. He figured he owed a debt to the gracious and extremely poor people of Nepal. In "Light of the Himalaya," he explains that 90 percent of blindness in the third world is treatable. These people are too uneducated and poor to get a 10-minute, sight-giving cataract operation. Teaming with a Nepalese eye surgeon, whose dedication knows no sports climbing, Tabin enlisted a group of mountaineers to join an eye-opening mission. They set up field hospitals in remote areas and changed the lives of whole communities. Beautifully photographed ascents to the top of the world take on new meaning.
"Nomads." You don't have to be a world-class kayaker to help people. Nonetheless, "Nomads" is one of those films that connects radical sportsmen to something more substantial than sporting their good fortune. In this case, the sportsmen are sportswomen - the "Wandering Women of the Whitewater." They synergize corporate sponsorship with adventurous social consciousness. Besides photographing wow on the river, the film shows these women helping to build a health clinic and an art workshop, helping to educate people about pre-natal care and nets against malaria. Perhaps most engagingly, the film shares face-to-face personal connection. Most of us are too chicken to whitewater kayak. Are we also too chicken to do good?
"Power of the Community." Put aside politics and words like communism. Because of decades of economic embargo, Cuba became a huge practical example of thriving with severely restricted oil supplies. Famine doubled the challenge. The film "Power of the Community" shows a culture often functioning without electricity. It shows a culture invested, by necessity, in organic farming and other sustainable strategies. It harnesses sun, wind and sugar cane. It consumes one-eighth as much energy as it did before. It shows a culture invested in college-level education, in producing doctors, in providing social services, and in giving us a taste of the thankfully unsurprising power of the community. Maybe America will sustain its gluttony long into the future. America probably has nothing to learn from Cuba.
"The Queen of Trees." Nature films. You know ... lots of close-ups of critters great and small. Lots of patient and time-lapsed cycle-of-life kinds of things. Well, "The Queen of Trees" pops with color and pulsing, symbiotic wonder. The sycamore fig tree feeds more animals in Africa than any other fruit tree. A fig wasp - 1 billion times smaller than a sycamore fig tree - makes this possible by assuring pollination. Besides capturing giraffe tongues and monkeyshines, insect hairs and sunlit perspectives, "The Queen of Trees" films fig wasp eggs inside figs , yes, inside the figs. This studious homage to a royal African tree pops with vitality.
"A Silent Forest." Be aware. Be very aware. Commercial interests salivate over the profit that genetically engineered agri-products can bring. The film "A Silent Forest" is worth it just to hear a genetic scientist explain that one of the things that makes science science is that scientists mostly get things wrong before they get things right. A genetically engineered forest has pesticide in EVERY cell of those trees. Cells, outside a laboratory, blow in the wind and leach into the water table. Insects resistant to such strategies survive and proliferate. Stronger chemicals are needed to fight evolved superbugs and unforeseen side effects. Genetically engineered products go unlabeled. Corporations commit dangerous, greedy, uncontrollable experimentation without our informed consent. Be aware. Be very aware.
"Who Killed the Electric Car." Through a hiccup in the heavy breathing of big corporations, a bunch of electric cars rolled into the marketplace. Users loved this alternative. They stood vigil while General Motors and Toyota pulled them off the road, tried to hide them, and literally crushed them. Automakers would not encourage people to want such cars. They would not allow anyone to own the cars that already existed. The film "Who Killed the Electric Car" shows that even a few dozen symbols amongst millions of oil-guzzling, pollution-spewing vehicles worried entrenched corporate interests. A California mandate for cleaner cars was shut down. An alternative with fewer moving parts, with zazz and traction for the post-modern psyche, was murdered.