Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mark Kitchell's A FIERCE GREEN FIRE tracks the history of the environmental movement

One of the most beautiful documentaries to come out of the environmental movement, A FIERCE GREEN FIRE, we hope, will be around in the decades to come, after the earth has been decimated, to give our children and grand-kids the chance to see how amazing were the things that "civilization" and "progress," wealth and corporate industry, managed to destroy. At least, with this film, they'll have the opportunity to understand what some of us were fighting for. Here is a kind of history of the environmental movement, put on film (more likely, video) in a manner that I have not seen previously.

Produced, directed and written by Mark Kitchell, shown at right, who earlier gave us the Oscar-nominated doc Berkeley in the 60s, the film offers a brief history of the "movement," from the grassroots time a half-century ago, when it would barely have understood that term as used today, as the Greenpeace flag and name fly globally.

As much as TrustMovies enjoyed taking this historical tour, he did question the film's odd organization. It is divided into five rather arbitrary sections -- Conservation, Pollution, Alternatives, Going Global and Climate Change -- that, while not repetitive and with the exception of the last one, keep overlapping upon each other so that the headings make little sense. Each, however, has a celebrity narrator (in order: Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabelle Allende and Meryl Streep) whose names will undoubtedly bring in more viewers, even though the narration could easily have been handled by a single person and voice.

From the early Sierra Club exploits to the more grassroots demonstrations begun by the very families whose health and lives were being lost around New York state's ironically-named Love Canal area (above)... the Utopian communities begun around the USA in the 1960s (above), to the time when it began to dawn on protesters that civil rights and environmental justice were actually connected; from Buckminster Fuller and the "living machine" that used Aqua-culture to do everything from clean sewage and grow food to heat the home -- it's all here to recall and maybe marvel over once again.

If a lot of the faces we see seem new to current environmental documentaries, the voices coming from them are not; they've been around quite awhile. When the documentary goes global, it becomes even more interesting, with a history of Chico Mendez (above), his work and his sacrifice in the Amazon Rain Forest (below), which helped further blur the lines between social justice, indigenous rights and environmental issues. In the developing world, as this doc explains, these three "causes" have now morphed into a single important issue.

When A Fierce Green Fire finally gets to the real issue at hand -- climate change -- the documentary grows darker and the USA is seen, deservedly so, as the biggest impediment to turning climate change around. Though there may be some 30,000 individual environmental groups around the globe -- "It's bigger than The Catholic Church!" notes one interviewee -- this seems but a drop in the bucket when compared to the power of corporate wealth.

While the movie ends with a series of an ever-expanding number of photos on a great grid (Love, Actually, anyone?) that would seem to promise hope, the facts about climate change indicate otherwise. Greenpeace can continue fighting, and all the rest of us demonstrating until our butts seize up, but until our politicians stop taking campaign money (also known as bribes) from the corporations and start serving us citizens (I fully expect this to occur on the day after never), let's sit back, relax and Watch the World Go Dark. (That's one of the best songs of the new millennium, by the way. When you've listened, try this group's even better Dust & Bones. These guys -- Night Terrors of 1927 -- are writing songs for the time ahead.

A Fierce Green Fire, from First Run Features, opens this Friday March 1, in New York City at the Cinema Village, after which it will open in cities around the country. For all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here.

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