Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category

The Bitter Seeds – Documentary About GMO Seeds In India

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
The Bitter Seeds - Documentary About GMO Seeds In India

The Bitter Seeds - Documentary About GMO Seeds In India

Just after Earth Day seemed like an appropriate time to see The Bitter Seeds at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival. The third in a globalization trilogy by Bay Area Filmmaker Micha X. Peled following Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue. The opening images in Bitter Seeds of an Indian farmer who just committed suicide due to the economic hardship. It creates a disturbing beginning for this character driven docu film that focuses on the effects that GMO seeds have on the cotton farmers in Central India.

The root of the film, investigates the how Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds negatively impact the livelihood of the Indian farmers. The farmers face a viscous cycle that circles around the GMO seeds, refused loans by legitimate banks and exorbitant loans by local moneylenders (a.k.a. loan sharks). The farmers fall into a cycle of debt that often results in suicide. The film only touches on the fact that large US cotton growers receive huge subsides from the US government while the small Indian receive nothing.

Beside the economic impact, the well- balanced documentary also follows 18 year old Manjusha whose desire to become a journalist and find the deep reasons about these suicides stems from the fact that her farmer father committed suicide. The film also address the social and family impact of the family farmers and how the pressure continue to mount.

The film creates a natural tie-in to the second film in the trilogy China Blue as much of the cotton harvested in this region gets shipped to China.

More interesting remains the fact that Bitter Seeds got a last minute nix from the London Film Festival due to “legal reasons”.

While not quite a David versus Goliath tale, it does contain elements that pit US GMO seed maker Monsanto versus the Indian Farmers. Toss in the family issues, and the local flavor and the film offers an informative piece of a well balanced trilogy.

Screens at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival:

Tue, Apr 24
8:50 / PFA

Thu, Apr 26
6:15 / Kabuki

Green Film Picks At The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Last Call at the Oasis

Last Call at the Oasis

With the San Francisco International Film Festival 2012 just around the corner, we wanted to offer a Green/Sustainable  sneak at some of the Green themed films on the festival plate.

Most of the Green themed films come in the form of documentaries such as Bitter Seeds, which delves into a story of how genetically modified seeds in India continue to make farmers desperately poor. This film could be particularly relevant with several US states attempting to get GMO food labeling on the 2012 ballots.

We’ve seen water films in the past and we’re excited (and frightened) to see Last Call at the Oasis, which focuses on the ever-increasing global water crisis. This documentary from Oscar-winner and Palo Alto native Jessica Yu, shot by SF local Jon Else also features several Bay Area experts, deals with the impending worldwide fresh water shortage.

We also heard good things about a narrative film, called Valley of Saints, which deals with fisherman who battle water pollution  and shrinking water supply in Dal Lake in the Kashmir region of India.

Green films here we come.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. at the 2011 Green Festival in San Francisco

Monday, November 14th, 2011

lennox green fest 2011 sfDid 2011 see us take a step backward in the Green movement?  It may be so with the residual cleanup from the BP oil spill and the federal government relaxing there stance on creating tougher emissions standards. The lost momentum on one side may be offset by the momentum gained on another. This philosophy came courtesy of Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. who spoke so passionately at the Green Festival in San Francisco this weekend whose spoke about “Green Mojo” How the Green Movement Can Get It Back and Keep It In The Future

Lennox voiced how the Green movement is about equality and existence not just organic foods and Prius cars. He talked about how the only green that took center stage this year came in the form of dollars from the Wall St one percent.

It remains an important aspect to connect the dots of environmental and economic justice. People who often lack economically often have little environmentally. It would benefit the Green movement to rally around the new found economic justice push and tie them together. Using this Green mojo will only allow the playing field of the Green movement to become more level and allow everyone to take part.

PCBC and West Coast Green Combination – Organic Architect Speaks

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

P1010666San Francisco might be known for food, liberalism and Green laws but also for density. Not the stupid kind but rather living in tight quarters. With those ideas, it made sense to combine PCBC and West Coast Green especially considering that real estate, especially new construction and Green building, continue to suffer greatly due to the economic downturn. After all dirty building and green building belong in the same event.

The crowds seemed a little thin on the first day at San Francisco’s Moscone Center but things will probably pick up during day two. One place where the crowd packed into the space was to see noted organic architect Eric Corey freed. The noted sustainable Howard Roark never disappoints in his presentations no matter the setting.

Freed offered his usual collection of bold, entertaining, outrageous slides to accompany his presentation. (Where does he get those photos?) A good portion of his 20 minute presentation focused on the car and how we have designed our society around the auto. Besides sprinkling in car facts such as the average American spends 84 hours stuck in traffic, and 94 percent of cars remain parked. So why do we have a love affair with our cars? Cars only destroy community which rings true in places like LA and Houston.

Even though Freed makes his living as a noted architect, his presentation weighed so heavily against the car that you might think that he changed his profession to bicycle inventor. His anti-car discussion eventually lead to several ideas to fix cities so that they change into people friendly instead of car friendly areas:

1-     Ban the lawns and replace with victory gardens.

2-     No straight streets.

3-     Require porous roads and lots to reduce water waste

4-     Make solar available as an over the counter purchase

5-     Bring back corner stores. This one we might not totally agree with unless the corner stores actually sell something besides processed crap.

6-     Encourage local real estate developers so that houses don’t look cookie cutter all over the US.

It’s good to have to someone thinking out of the box even if his requirements run on a slightly fascist model.

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.

Upcoming Picks for SFIFF 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Pipe_Quad_Full_PosterWhen the SFIFF finally released its 2011 schedule, a few films initially struck our fancy. The Irish documentary “The Pipe” takes a look at a grassroots effort to halt the construction of a oil pipeline through one a pristine area of a small Irish town. Not only does the community battle the behemoth oil company but a largely compliant state as well.

Sticking with the theme of energy, the “Light Thief ” caught our eyes as a local electrician known as Mr. Light finds himself in a dilemma when a politician embraces the idea of generating wind energy for his destitute town.

Although we enjoy seeing the green wave of films with an environmental slant, we also maintain a keen eye for good film so that means the Errol Morris film “Tabloid” about the bizarre 70s tale of girl gone wild Joyce McKinney.

We keep salivating about Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” which we hear tastes like a food version of “Sideways”. We hope that it comes served organically.

Happy viewing.

New MiEV in San Francisco Driveway

Monday, March 14th, 2011
New MiEV in driveway in SF

New MiEV in driveway in SF

It’s becoming a regular occurrence. One of us comes down early in the morning and we spy a new electric vehicle in the driveway of Plug In America and solar guru Marc Gellar. This time, we got to check out the new MiEV from Mitsubishi. This international version (slightly smaller than the US version) looks to be the perfect size for San Francisco or any city commute.

The MiEV looks somewhat larger than the Smart car but seems to be a better size in terms of size and comfort. It contains four seats, and even if four tall people can’t squeeze in, it sure can fit a few bags of groceries. Marc mentioned that it offers a surprising amount of giddyap, and also told us that it can go about 80 miles between charges which is enough to visit to the East Bay and back.

Of course, price gets everyones’ attention and the MiEV. We heard that  Mitsubishi dealer in San Rafael will have these electric puppies available in November and should come in less than $20K mark with the federal credits.

The one thing that that gets us is on the back of the car it states “40 years of EV development”. So, what have they been doing for the last 39 years? Waiting for gas that’s $5 a gallon.

Opening Night San Francisco Green Film Festival – Bag It

Friday, March 4th, 2011

bag itIn the hopefully not so distant future when “paper or plastic” will be answered with “neither”, the documentary “Bag It” takes an in depth view of ubiquitous plastic bags. Actually the film graduates (with the scene from “The Graduate” about plastics) from an initial look at disposable plastic bag culture that the world lives in and moves into how plastic continues to envelop our lives, health and economy.

This relatively simple film rides on the back of director Suzan Beraza and front man Jeb Berrier. The film uses a variety of interviews, archive clips and even some animation to drive home the point that plastic bags and pretty much all plastic containers continue to take a toll on the environment, marine life and human health. Thanks to Berrier, the film floats along swimmingly as he represents an “everyman” from small town Colorado who isn’t a tree hugger but realizes that plastic has taken over his life and not for the better. Berrier comes off as a George Costanza (from Seinfeld) character with a wry sense of humor who learns how plastic strangles not only his life but also the world we live in.

In the latter half of the film, Bag It moves beyond plastic bags and looks at the pervasiveness of plastic and the toxic aspects without becoming too preachy. Director Beraza and Berrier even make fun of the American Chemical Council members for ducking all requests to appear in the film.

Bag It does a solid job of alerting viewers to chemical dangers of plastic ingredients like BPA and phthalates and offers solid interviews and explanations.

Bag It could have could have been double bagged with more of an emotional punch that would have raised this docu pic to a higher level. It also could have wrapped up with more of a group “call to action” so people can feel empowered against the chemical and plastic companies.

Bag It certainly does its best to educate and entertain audience members. With funny front man Berrier leading the charge, perhaps Bag It will do for plastic bags what Morgan Sperlock did for McDonald’s fast food.