Archive for April, 2011

The Light Thief Plugs Into Environmental and Social Justice

Friday, April 29th, 2011
Scene from The Light Thief

Scene from The Light Thief

Sometimes it takes seeing things from a different perspective to realize what the big picture is. In the case of “The Light Thief” which plays at the SFIFF later this week, this small deftly made film plugs into  social and environmental justice themes then  wraps the story around colorful characters and a stark backdrop.

Set in a remote village in Kyrgyzstan, “The Light Thief” spotlights a local electrician, who the locals refer to as Mr. Light.  His radiance shows through in the first scene where he monkeys with the wires in an old man’s house so that he doesn’t have to pay for electricity. In this case Mr. Light shows his benevolence and concern for the community as he helps them steal electricity that they can’t afford. He eventually gets caught but the villagers (as well as the audience) know that Mr. Light’s heart is in the right place.

Besides his role as a do-gooder, Mr. Light acts as an environmentalist of sorts. With his iconic energy producing windmill in his front yard, he constantly tinkers with his sustainable invention. The fact that others in his village consider him an eccentric electrician only frustrates him.

Things quickly change when a greedy developer who has his mind set to developing much of the village hires Mr. Light to not only work but expand on his windmill idea. Mr. Light soon finds himself in a dilemma – work for the greedy developer who he learns to dislike but who can make his windmill farm a reality or continue fighting the system.

This little allegory of big business and politics versus the community and the common man seems a little rough around the edges but the simple style that director  Aktan Arym Kubat (The Chimp) brings home his points. Perhaps small town villagers can use The Light Thief as a rallying point for those going up against the large energy companies of the world.  For those in the big cities, we just have to hope that The Light Thief sees the light of day in some movie theaters.

Screens at the SFIFF Sunday May 1

The Pipe – Little Community Versus Big Oil Documentary

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
The Pipe

The Pipe

Screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival  - 2011

In another documentary that takes the familiar   David versus Goliath
theme, the Irish entry “The Pipe” looks at the plight of the citizens of the small Irish enclave of Rossport versus Shell E & P Ireland. Shell wishes to lay the huge Corrib Gas Pipeline through the picturesque  community but the locals fights back.

The Pipe states that Shell refused to participate in the making of this film. The fact that an energy giant refused to offer their side doesn’t come as a big surprise.  Besides the film Crude, few of the community versus energy giant (e.g. On Coal River) docupics have included participation from the Goliath.

The Pipe’s director Risteard O Domhnaill quickly sets the mood and
location by offering glorious sweeping vistas, seascapes and verdant
shots of the local region. He captures the local fisherman catching
crabs, and others walking their dogs. All things that one would expect
people in the local community to take part in.

The Pipe quickly slides into a series of conflicts that that locals initiate
against the energy giant. The film captures the protests that have a
grass roots feel with sit ins, vocal demonstrations, and town
meetings. Much of the initial conflict pits the locals versus the town police, and then later shifts to infighting as the village residents argue about the best way to attack the energy giant.

The protests include the notable 2005 arrest of “The Rossport Five”
who made international news and served as the spark for the base of
the continuing flight against Shell.  Domhnaill follows one of the
Rossport Five, fisherman Willie Corduff who remains firm in the fight
against the pipeline construction.

Although the film creates a compelling story, it suffers somewhat from
repetition and fails to fully address certain local issues. The film skims over the involvement of local and governments and only focus on the battles
between the police and the residents.  Other “oil documentaries” such
as “Crude” create more complexity by delving into the various layers
in a big oil versus local community story.

Despite some of the shortcomings the film offers high production
values and colorful locals, and enough conflict to fill the a pipeline.  The
film’s energy picks up some of the slack but not enough to raise it to
the standards of other docufilms of this genre.

“The Pipe” screens Apr 30 and May 2

Happy Earth Day – Have A Phone Book

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

phone books Happy Earth Day!

It would have been completely ironic for the Valley publishing company to deliver these monolith-sized stacks of phone books on Earth Day but that didn’t happen. They did make the trek from Fresno to doorsteps and sidewalks of San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. No doubt, many San Franciscans couldn’t wait for the newest page-turner. Who can’t live without their phone book these days?

We find humor in the fact that the 584 page of wasted paper states “This directory is 100% recyclable” in several places throughout the book. Of course it is, and so too are plastic bottles. Why even make this monstrosity at all? And speaking of plastic, we even enjoy receiving these phone books wrapped in plastic.

Maybe next time, the company can dip the phone books in oil before they deliver them to all of the customers who early await the next updated version.

And just a shout out to the Millions Against Monsanto event taking place in San Francisco Civic Center this Saturday April 23rd from 11 AM to 6 PM.

Happy Earth Day!

Green Festival Rolls Into San Francisco

Monday, April 11th, 2011
Joey Shepp

Joey Shepp

The Green festival rolled into San Francisco this past weekend with less fanfare than in the past. Not that the participants, vendors and speakers didn’t have the energy of years past but this recent version saw a drop in vendors and also in the overall show days (from 3 to 2). Maybe the festival needs work on the “less is more” thinking and revert to the November only event.

The event did offer some notable and thought provoking speakers. We spent time to hear local Joey Shepp discuss social media for sustainable business. Even for people experienced with sustainable business ideas he certainly added some innovative ideas. We saw several business people typing notes madly on the Smart Pads. Some of the products and ideas worth mentioning include: the Fujitsu scansnap that quickly scans documents and business cards and the like quickly and efficiently. Of course he mentioned the world of cloud computing and how they will cut down on paper use. He mentioned that currently products will be about what the client wants not what the company wants (crowd sourcing) and that great sustainable ideas don’t have to come from angel investors or VC with organizations like Kiva, Kickstarter, and Crowdfire as outlets for people to start their own business. With so much info, he quickly rushed through his belief that Wikileaks will add truth and cause companies (or governments) to be more transparent. It adds truth, and what remains is education and creativity.

The other thing that seemed to be generating buzz is the GMO talk. Organizations may be angling toward getting mandatory labeling of GMOs on the California ballot because a high percentage of consumers want GMO labeled and because supermarkets, products and apparently are government don’t want to be transparent about what our food contains.