Reviews of "Dear Governor Cuomo" and "Bidder 70" plus Q and A with "Cuomo" filmmaker Jon Bowermaster
Folk music. Music by the people. The musicians in “Dear Governor Cuomo” are not especially well known, but they make good music. They make good message.
At the beginning of the film, actor Mark Ruffalo speaks. Representing “New Yorkers against Fracking” and hundreds of thousands of petitioners, Ruffalo asks Governor Andrew Cuomo “firmly but respectfully” to “be our hero.” With the “wellbeing of our children pounding in our hearts,” he carries the message of New Yorkers who say, “Ban Fracking.”
The film sings for Cuomo to sustain the moratorium on fracking New York. The movement asks that he prevent the drilling of 35,000 to 95,000 wells.
The film demonstrates educating the governor to govern the public trust. It connects the people and the government to the science. It reminds powerful elected leaders, who seek reelection, that energy corporations should not be exempted from the safe drinking water act and clean air act. These exemptions hide the list of toxic chemicals and heavy metals that corporations use in hydraulic fracturing. These exemptions mask the repercussions of exploding 400 million years of bedrock.
This is a protest film of a kind … leveraging civilized political behavior with music. This film uplifts and balances awareness-raising with the transformative vitality of song.
Oh, how tempting it must be when a corporation offers someone a million dollars for his land. Oh, how many billions can corporations make from such purchases. Oh, how easily profits can ratchet up when the remaining 40 percent of the land owners get forced to sell at “compulsory integration” prices (eminent domain). Oh, how successful a business model can be when corporations can “externalize costs”-- not having to pay for generations of cancers and asthma, air and water and soil pollution, and so much more.
Jon Bowermaster is a veteran contributor to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. “Dear Governor Cuomo” captures on film a compelling dance between fighting big badness and having a good time.
Fracking is hardly the only activism -fomenting issue at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. That said, keep in mind several feet of ocean rise and other global climate change to compounded pollutions and revolutionary disenfranchisements. Fracking (and its siblings, coal and tar sands extraction) is about as momentous as issue-stirring can get.
Consider another face of passion, intelligence, and courage. Tim DeChristopher carries the ball of protest into civil disobedience. He disrupted a Bureau of Land Management auction. As “Bidder 70,” documented in the film of the same name, he fraudulently purchased a dozen parcels of land to muck with the much greater wrong of drilling wells by the tens of thousands to feed our fossil fuel addiction.
“Bidder 70” paints a telling personal portrait of the spirit and consequences of activist commitment. The film begins with a quote from Martin Luther King: “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. Tim DeChristopher does so. He grows as a person and grows as an example along the way. He grows as activist facing jail time.
The law guides us “not to weigh the wisdom of [our] decisions; enforce the law the way [the court] explains it to you.” (The way corporate domination explains it to you) Constipation of this legal plumbing compels active ingredients of an activist kind.
Extracted from Chuck Jaffee’s conversation with writer/director of “Dear Governor Cuomo,” Jon Bowermaster
Chuck Jaffee: How did you connect with making an anti-fracking film?
Jon Bowermaster: I wanted to make a film in my own backyard. You don’t have to travel half way around the world, as I have, to tell provocative environmental stories. Before this film, I’ve only been a journalist. I wanted to know how it feels to be an activist. It felt like the right thing to do.
CJ: You essentially orchestrated the concert to highlight the movement?
JB: I scripted and directed the stage event. I wanted a succinct message. I wanted to use the power of music to elevate the story of fracking in a way where, after, you’re not depressed.
CJ: What touched you most about musical aspects of the concert?
JB: We presented all the songs as ensemble pieces, no egos. Most of these people – all New Yorkers -- had not met each other 24 hours before the concert.
CJ: What touched you most about tactics and strategies in New York’s anti-fracking movement?
JB: I’m seeing so many grass roots community organizations. There’s activists working 24/7 out there, and they’re not alone. If Cuomo allows fracking, there’s going to be a hundred lawsuits the next day.
CJ: Do you have a prediction about what position Governor Cuomo will take in 2013?
JB: I’m not inside the governor’s head. We’re inviting him to join us. I know the pressure from corporations and Washington is huge. We just showed the film to a packed house in Albany [capital of New York]. We asked the audience after the film if they would vote against Cuomo in the 2014 primary for governor, if he allowed fracking in New York. All hands shot up. Politicians respond to public opinion. By its nature with fracking, stuff goes wrong. When it does, Cuomo would have to wear those mistakes around his neck.
CJ: What size audience is “Dear Governor Cuomo” going to get and how?
JB: We’re approaching distribution in a different way. We’re working though environmental groups. We’re going city to city throughout New York. As people learn more about fracking, that’s going on in 34 states, maybe this film can help grow an anti-fracking voting bloc.