For its first run, the inaugural San Francisco Green Film Festival was a hit! The topics of the various documentaries – from the rights of butterflies to the greening of Hollywood film sets – showed just how expansive the sustainability sector is and how creative entrepreneurs, hard-working humanitarians and everyday citizens are able to drive change in their own unique way.
The festival, organized by Rachel Caplan, was held at the Landmark Embarcadero Cinema in downtown San Francisco. The location was easily accessible by public transportation and the theater’s concession stand had a selection of vegan and vegetarian sausages from local spot Underdog - a good fit for the green event. The opening night gala and special festival events were hosted nearby at the beautiful LEED-certified Bentley Reserve. The gala was plastic-free – guests drank from real glasses and ate off of compostable dishes – and Bay Area-based food sponsors provided organic wines and appetizers. Vegetarian fare was limited, unfortunately, so hopefully this will be remedied next year.
The wonderful film selections, however, made any first-time-festival glitches unimportant. Below are the must-see documentaries I encourage you to watch. The more we spread the word about these types of important and emotionally-moving films, the greater chance we have of selling out the house at next year’s San Francisco Green Film Festival and opening the eyes of our neighbors, friends and family. So make a big bowl of organic popcorn and get ready to be entertained and enlightened!
Bag It! – “Everyman” Jeb Berrier explores the effects of single-use plastic (think plastic grocery bags, the plastic fruit container you get from Trader Joe’s, etc) and how this type of packaging poses serious waste disposal and societal health problems. From the lies behind the ability to recycle single-use plastic, to the politics behind chemical-company-led attacks on phasing out plastic grocery bags, Jeb’s focus evolves as his wife becomes pregnant and their awareness of other everyday toxic chemicals grows. This is a perfect film to show green newbies, as it touches on many of the movement’s most important issues.
In the Wake of the Flood – Environmental author Margaret Atwood’s 100-day book tour for her latest novel “The Year of the Flood” is documented as she makes her way around the world visiting her readers. To get the message out, each eco tour stop hosts a theatrical reenactment of her story. The film is touching and lets you see a more personal, passionate side of Margaret. But, after yesterday’s terrible earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, it’ll also give you goose bumps wondering if her fiction has turned into prophecy.
Green – A film without sound can sometimes say more than a script ever could. Follow the final days of Green, an orangutan whose rainforest home has been destroyed and whose baby is sold into the exotic animal trade. Her depression is palpable as staff at a wildlife rehabilitation center attempt to treat her. However, the images of the decimation of forests in Indonesia for the paper and palm oil industry are particularly frightening. Though the filmmakers do gently point the finger at worldwide consumers for driving demand, we can see firsthand the terrifying impacts of allowing corporations to plunder and pillage the environment as they see fit.
Into Eternity – “Onkalo” means hiding place in Finnish, which is a fitting name for the nuclear repository hidden deep underground in Finland that contains the radioactive waste generated by the country’s nuclear energy plants. Eerily fascinating and unnerving at the same time, the film explores the potentially-devastating implications if there is a leak and how generations hundreds of years from now may come to see “the hiding place that should never be disturbed” as either a sign of a miracle or apocalyptic.
Bananas!* – Who knew that a sunny-colored banana could have such a dark side. Filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, who is currently being sued by Dole Food Corporation, documents a tense courtroom drama that has a flashy-but-compassionate Los Angeles lawyer fighting on behalf of Nicaraguan workers who have a myriad of health problems – from cancer to sterility – as a result of being exposed to chemicals that Dole’s C-suite knew were toxic. After watching this film, I am only buying fair-trade and organic bananas…that are not grown by Dole. Trust me, it’s worth the extra 30 or 40 cents.
DIVE! – Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert takes viewers on a journey from dumpster to dinner plate as he and his friends pull enough food from the garbage bins of large grocery chains throughout Southern California to feed their families and share with local homeless shelters. The film is a commentary on how Americans throw away 96 billion pounds of food a year – much of it perfectly edible – but still can’t eradicate hunger in society. Hopefully the awareness generated from the movie will help America improve its food distribution system, and have consumers be more mindful of the waste that makes it into our compost bins.