Sunday, January 30, 2011

Poignant and Rewarding Films

One film critic is very excited about four documentary films with an environmental theme which got Oscar nominations.

"What these ones all get right, in my opinion, is that they stand alone as human interest stories. They all acknowledge the fact that the most important environmental issues—pollution, waste, extraction, climate change—are also the most important human issues."

Sun Come Up follows the plight of some of the world's first true climate refugees. Their homeland, the Cataret Islands, a remote chain in the South Pacific, is fast losing ground to rising sea levels. 'The families who have lived there for dozens of generations have made the agonizing decision to relocate their entire community.'

The Warriors of Quigang tells an incredible "David vs. Goliath" story of poor villagers in China's industrial heartland standing up against runaway pollution. 'The village of Qiugang is plagued by three major industrial outlets that "churned out chemicals, pesticides, and dyes, turning the local river black, killing fish and wildlife, and filling the air with foul fumes that burned residents’ eyes and throats and sickened children." '

It's interesting to see the involvement of Yale Environment 360, a nonprofit environmental journalism initiative with Warriors.

Gasland takes a critical look at the natural gas industry—particularly the relatively new and controversial practice of "hydrofracking" to extract the fossil fuel from its shale deposits. 'The film uses startling images of kitchen faucets erupting in flames and polluted streams to argue against the practice that many community activists see as a major threat to public health and safety.'

Finally 'In the world's largest garbage dump, on the outskirts of Rio de Janiero, a community of catadores, or "scavengers," spend their lives picking through the refuse for recyclable, reusable, and even edible materials. WASTE LAND follows artist Vik Muniz from Brooklyn back to his native Brazil, where he connects with the trash-pickers, helping them create striking, vivid images of themselves out of garbage that he then photographs. The images, according to the filmmakers, show "both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives."'

For a critic who has been lukewarm about other environmental films, Ben Jervey calls them all "poignant, challenging, and wonderfully rewarding to watch."