Though replete with visually arresting images and strikingly humble portrayals of people struggling to live off the land, A River Changes Course (2013) is only flawed in its lack of imperative. While incredibly intriguing, there is little of a sense of view of the environment and situations that are documented. Certain documentaries thrive off a capacity to remain neutral and observational, but A River Changes Course begs to be interpreted. The viewer does not just see general circumstances; the viewer sees particular circumstances, and wonders questions what ought to be done—a quality that most documentaries of this sort tend to over emphasize. I admire that Mam withholds her authorial voice—besides choices in the editing—until the final moments, but the lack of agency in the film renders much of it quite lackadaisal.
Browsing: Planet in Focus 2013
On 19th December 2008 a Bureau of Land Management auction was held in Utah to sell off parcels of land to become Oil and Gas leases for energy industry corporations. The land was disputed and consider by locals to be naturally beautiful and the legality of the auction was called into question, yet it went ahead anyway. In the crowd that day however was a young Utahan called Tim DeChristopher who was about to register in the hall as bidder #70 and purposefully disrupt the whole process.
Tokyo Waka is an interesting film that attempts to explain modern day Tokyo to outsiders. It’s not so much a travelogue or a cultural exploration as it is about the city itself. And the crows. Apparently the city of Tokyo has had a history of being nearly overrun with crows, the same way that American and European cities have pigeon problems. Only pigeons don’t attack people.
Emptying the Skies is a documentary about a group called CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter), based in Europe who try to enforce anti-poaching laws and protect migrating songbirds. The film is based on Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker essay of the same name and features interviews with Franzen and others regarding the migratory patterns of songbirds and a little regarding the tradition of catching and eating these tiny little birds.
The film is mostly done cinéma vérité as we follow the small group from CABS as they set about freeing birds that are caught in cages or on lime sticks (sticks treated with lime cement to catch the birds and entangle them). We learn that many of the migratory songbirds from Europe are on the protected list and the European Union has outlawed their trapping and consumption. This does not stop the locals, especially on the island of Crete, where it is a time honored tradition.
Modern farming techniques with its production maximizing chemical weaponry and a new flourishing tourism industry that draws well-meaning seekers of mystical awakening to the land’s vibrant colors and textures have changed the lives of traditional farmers in southern India and made it nearly impossible to carry on their lives using the traditional techniques of sustenance based farming that have bountifully provided for their well-being for generations. Life providing streams of water now carry unwanted passengers of chemical pesticides and the compulsory garbage of a flourishing tourism industry, tainting the ancestral “sweet waters” that have been winding through these rural areas since they were named by the ancestors
The realities of exponential growth in the human population create discomfort in their grave implications as the world’s space and resources are finite and the overpopulation of any species has the potential for devastating effects, but when the human equation enters the picture cold objectivity becomes difficult because it forces humanity to stare in the face of its inevitable mortality. Having supposed domain over our surroundings and possessing what we believe to be the unique trait of consciousness, we have a specialized ability to comfort ourselves with short-sighted lies and the dubious notion that we are divinely unique and immune to obsolescence or catastrophic overpopulation. It will always work out for humanity, we shining creatures of evolutionary achievement and complete obliviousness to the logical interconnectivity the complex systems that govern the parameters of our existence. This arrogance that has allowed humanity to declare its incontestable supremacy could ultimately lead to our own extinction if we do not face the problems of the world with uncomfortable objectivity, but potential solutions are damning to the current notions of freedom and such concessions go against evolutionary stubbornness forged from countless cycles of competitive evolution. We are Earth’s darlings, and we will not be subjugated by the popular trends of kooky scientists and their tendency to possess the idiosyncratic personality defect of global awareness. Last Call explores the problems facing humanity and the obstinate aversion to subordination that clouds our ability to see these problems with appropriate impartiality as we illogically march toward our own destruction, as well as tell the fascinating story of a team of six men and women who changed the global language surrounding issues like environmentalism, economics, and the devastating impacts of overpopulation with their controversial book, The Limits of Growth.
‘Animal documentaries’ seem to fall into two basic camps: those that celebrate animals in the wild (science) and those that despair at the treatment of animals in captivity (politics). The former seem to belong mainly on television (yet have had limited breakout success with films such as March Of The Penguins), and the latter belong mainly in the cinema. The reason for this is nicely summed up near the beginning of Liz Marshall’s new documentary: ‘We live in a PG-13 society’.
The Planet in Focus Films Festival is run by Canada’s leading not-for-profit environmental media arts organisation. Formed in 1999, its aim is to raise awareness through film and it showcases work from filmmakers in Canada and worldwide. Salmon Confidential is a Salmon are Sacred production (salmonaresacred.org) and the documentary serves the purpose of drawing the publics attention to the problems facing wild salmon production in British Colombia.
We are given beautiful glimpses into agrarian communities in decline as the globalization of food production has made their self-sustaining ways all but extinct. We see the faces of the inhabitants of small Kenyan communities as they congregate to discuss the obstacles that are making it impossible for them to live. Foreign investors are grabbing up the land that has been their only means of sustainability, and these investors will use violence to protect the property they dubiously acquired. These displaced farmers work, live, feel, love, and try to survive in an unfair system that has stripped them of their land and only means of sustenance. These are people with the same essential needs and concerns as anyone living in the western world and No Land, No Food, No Life gives a human face to those who are ignored and outright exploited with no means of recourse and no alternative means to sustain themselves. These are not faceless casualties that constitute the necessary attrition that keeps the rest of the world fat and complacent, these are people being forced into a system that they cannot win as they are involuntarily thrust into capitalism at its lowest possible rung and dared to try and climb their way out.