Screenshots: Films for a Fragile Planet, from Puerto Rico to Mars
More than a few arts organizations that were already in dire financial straits ended up falling victim to COVID, including the San Francisco Green Film Festival, which could not survive the forced cancellation of what would have been their 10th anniversary last fall. Fortunately, the environmental issues presented by its programming remain far too important to filmmakers or audiences to be overlooked by other surviving festivals and platforms.
Their number now includes Habitable planet (Thu / 22-May 2), the latest addition to the family of local film festivals under the umbrella of SF Indiefest, which was founded almost a quarter of a century ago. This new entirely virtual festival (at least for 2021) offers a total of 67 short films and features that travel the world. They encompass both narrative and (mostly) documentary work, united by a focus on the increasingly strained relationship between our planet and its most dominant (and destructive) species, namely humanity.
The official opening selection this game / 22 is that of Cecilia Aldarondo Landing. ‘Kids in cages’ aside, probably no pre-COVID failure has exposed the Trump administration’s mercenary harshness as clearly as its response (or lack thereof) to Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in September. 2017. As one person here put it, âWhat happened was a disasterâ¦ but the real disaster is what happened afterwards. The immediate severe shortages of food, water, electricity, gas, etc. were processed with astounding slowness; while less than 100 people may have died in the true Category 5 storm, as many as 5,000 people are believed to have died subsequently, as a direct or indirect result of government inaction. All of this underlined that although PR is part of the United States (as âunincorporated territoryâ), it is still seen as a poor stepson – fit for exploitation, but not true support.
Impressionist rather than explanatory, Landing rarely describes the complex set of problems that still plague an island long in the grip of “colonial disease”. But he always makes a powerful statement, alternately overwhelming and resilient, lyrical and dismal. It should be noted that the politically constrained Commonwealth already had $ 72 billion in debt. before Maria knocked. It is the result of policies that have continually drained its resources for offshore earning purposes while offering little in return to the residents, who migrated in waves to the mainland to survive for many decades.
We catch a glimpse of some of the latest such profiteers: developers of “luxury estates” catering to people who wish to “protect their wealth” by purchasing property in “a gated community on steroids”; and the stars of the “crypto [-currency] community âwho arrive as altruistic saviors, but whose real motivations are regarded with weariness by the locals. (If you’re looking for the controversial track records of these venture capitalists, this mistrust is more than justified.)
Two years after the hurricane, basic infrastructure is still a mess, while budgets continue to be cut to service the debt. There is also the literally toxic legacy of the long-term former presence of the US Navy, which used parts of public relations for war games, bombing exercises, and chemical dumps. As one native here put it, “Hurricane Maria was like a giant mop or broom that cleaned everything up, and we finally got to seeâ¦ how screwed we were.”
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The result was a furious rise in activism that led to the successful ousting of Governor “Ricky” Nevares in 2019 – although “you can cut off your head, but the monster is still there,” as one observer puts it. . We see jubilant crowds chanting âConmen! Assholes! Give us back our millions! No vultures, no corruption! Puerto Rico is ours, end of story! In the face of heavily armed military police.
The future is uncertain, to say the least – and Americans, who cannot vote in national elections and are not represented in Congress, are not united in considering the creation of a potential state. as the answer. But Landfall An excellent free-form overview conveys a new spirit belligerently calling for meaningful change.
Livable Planet’s closing night movie on May 2 transcends this earth plane: Red sky tells about a year-long experimental NASA program to test the conditions astronauts would endure while on a mission to Mars. The problem that just might get us there – climate change – is at the heart of several other features, including centerpiece selection. Tangled. It is one of many films that examine the impact of environmental change and commercial pressure on edible aquatic life.
The long coast provides a fine appreciation for fishing and related industries in Maine, where traditional âwildâ methods may soon be forced to make way for high-tech industrial agriculture. Magnificent Red salmon: red fish looks at the impact of poaching in Kamchatka, a nature reserve “paradise” in Russia’s Far East that supplies much of the world’s salmon and caviar. It offers remarkable (if not frightening) photographs of up close bickering brown bears.
Excessive hunting of another species is the subject of Operation Wolf Control, while other documentaries highlight conservation issues in Indonesia (Our mother’s land), Ghana (The burning field), Nepal (Baato), Nicaragua (River tales), and elsewhere.
There are also films about adventure sports (including Climbing blind), sustainable agriculture and the hidden costs of consumption. Documentary Clothing awareness provides a look at the interface between first world fashion and third world work; a special selection of films from midnight, the canadian horror comedy Slaxx (reviewed here), parodies those same conflicts by making a pair of designer jeans “owned” a mess for employees of a hip Forever 21-type store chain in Toronto. There are also themed short film programs, including one LGBTQ, and special local interest titles like Point Reyes-shot Tule Elk: the killing of a native species.
The Livable Planet Film Festival will air from Thursday May 22 to May 2. For more information on the program and tickets, click here.
Even beyond this new annual showcase, there are quite a few more films on green issues in circulation right now. Fri / 23 sees Victor Velle’s streaming release 8 billion angels, which examines a big picture of how overpopulation is endangering the future of our species. The 4/20 date naturally brings at least two cannabis-themed features we know about: there is factual drama The marijuana conspiracy, on a “radical 1972 experiment studying the effects of weed on women,” and a documentary Go to the pot: up and down, which examines this growing, newly legal industry.
Also, playing on local PBS stations that day (this Tuesday, on KRCB) and Thursday / 22 (KPJK) is Todd Darling’s 2014. Occupy the farm, chronicling the tug of war between UC Berkeley and community activists over the last substantial expanse of open, undeveloped farmland in the East Bay.
Playing already at the Embarcadero, Rafael Film Center and other theaters is Gunda, The documentary without words and B&W by Viktor Kossakovsky takes his patient camera on several farm animals living in pleasantly bucolic conditions and outside the factory: the titular mother pig, a few chickens (including one with a very majestic hop on one leg) and a small herd of cows.
Presumably filmed via drone cameras, the subjects therefore seem oblivious to any foreign presence, it offers many privileged moments of non-human behavior observed with great intimacy. Also great empathy, which can sneak up on you with a hammer blow when the fade reminds us that these creatures are still, ultimately, commodities at the mercy of human need.
Adopting a very macro vision of the microcosmic one of Gunda is that of Sky Hopinka. malni – to the ocean, to the shore, BAMPFA’s home streaming program currently available (more info here). The debut feature by this esteemed visual artist is a meditative, often visually ravishing, cinematic essay alternating between private moments in nature and events from the tribal community in his native Pacific Northwest. Two of his friends provide reflections on Indigenous identity and spirituality, as well as both, in frequently besieged modern cultural circumstances. This is a rare film where one hears of Chinuk Wawa, one of the many ways this free-form document gently broadens the viewer’s horizons.