Clearly, producer Russell Berns believes fervently that he has something urgent to say, but just as clearly, he has no idea how to say it. The filmmakers wandered the world from New Zealand to Israel to Oregon and Arizona, interviewing people who believe that what they are doing is radical and the only way to save the earth. Unfortunately for them, the producers strung together the interviews in a way that suggests that most of their subjects are members of a cult.
Take this seemingly random comment from Cuahlemor Landeros, an unidentified but very happy individual who appears several times in the film. This observation is voiced over footage of volunteers digging in arid soil.
“Originally we come from civilizations that were incredible, amazing technologies lifestyles. But they have just been put into subjugation and illusioned. Permaculture I see as a way to bring back the love and the light and the ability to live like that. Live like that. You can live without being dependent. You could understand that if you have land and water you’re rich—the richest you can be. Water is this elusive elixir. We got the power, each and every individual, we have the power to bring back the food, bring back the water, to bring back the richness, the life. Abundant, thick, juicy—it’s there for us—just like a fruit. Waiting to be picked. Many people have gotten this message, it’s just a matter of that message continuing to spread, like wildfire, like beacons of light.”
Perhaps because I come from a civilization that nearly went extinct because the potatoes turned black, I don’t necessarily share his enthusiasm.
Before An Inconvenient Truth, no one believed that you could get an audience to sit for a full-length documentary about environmental doom and gloom. Al Gore (with some help from director Davis Guggenheim) changed that perception because he made not only a good case, but a good movie. Berns has made it obvious that he’s no Al Gore.
For much of its 30-minute length it takes on the feel of an infomercial filled with promises of a brighter tomorrow at our fingertips, if we would only just remember to look at things differently. The camera follows one very mellow skinny white guy after another espousing simplistic solutions to real-world problems. It’s all about consciousness—as if 7 billion “aha” moments are going to save the planet. Do the producers really think no one has thought of solar energy, composting or rainwater harvesting before?
Most troublesome is that the urgent issues the film seeks to address are very real. The planet could certainly use the energy of the audience that this is likely to reach, but the invitation is unlikely to reach the unconvinced. And most people who care enough about the environment to see such a film are well informed enough to know that nothing is as easy as the permaculturists would have us believe. If you want to make a film, either do the science, like Gore did, or present a polemic which engages those who may not understand the urgency of our multiple environmental crises.
The EcoSutra event runs Saturday, June 28, 6 to 11 p.m., at the Palace, 2384 James St. Admission is on a sliding scale up to $10. The film begins at 6:45 p.m. with an introduction by Berns. From 8 to 9 p.m., local leaders will give presentations followed by a question and answer period. And until 11 p.m., there will be live music from Rebecca Keefe Fitzsimmons, time for networking and cash bar. For more information, call 727-3517.