Posts Tagged ‘san_francisco_international_film_festival’

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.

Detroit Wild City – Feature Documentary

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Detroit_Wild_City_0Screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2011

Looking at the opening images from the feature documentary Detroit Wild City, the Motor City look more like something made like Mad Max film or as one of the Detroit locals mentioned in the film that the Motor City resembles Dresden after the war.

Despite the negatives that the film focuses on – blight, crime, decay, French director Florent Tillon offers some alternative philosophies and ideas that may be surprising in the sustainability of the decaying city.

The French point of view from Tillon highlights how numerous citizens have started growing victory gardens in the midst of all the decay. The fact that Detroit used to be farm land before an auto city may come full circle (to a point) with abandoned lots being turned into local farms.

Detroit Wild City also makes a point to show how native falcons and other birds have returned to the city using deserted skyscrapers as artificial cliffs and nesting grounds.

Tillon uses arresting images to make his point while limiting interviews and dialogue to a sparse number of lower and working class Detroitians. Although it might have been interesting to get some point of view from local business people, Tillon obviously wished to keep the focus on the hard core locals who remain.

Detroit Wild City offers some hope but leaves many questions unanswered. People may have different takeaways from this striking travelogue but it does bring awareness to a supposedly dead city on the the mend.

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

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.

Social Justice Highlights the 53rd San Francisco Internation Film Fesival Gaolden Gate Awards

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Director Lixin Fan

Director Lixin Fan

In the last days of the 53rd SFIFF we must attend the parties (oh yes, it is a chore) and awards ceremonies. Last night we milled about the Golden Gate Awards with lots of buzz, drinks, food and happy filmmakers. The under appreciated and deserving filmmakers stood in the spotlight and garnered more than just awards but cold hard cash. (That’s what indie feature and docu filmmakers need most).

Held at the Temple Bar which does more than the average bar/club and adheres to the People, Profit and Planet philosophy (but we wish that they would do away with the paper towels in the bathrooms) the Golden Gate awards spotlighted several films and filmmakers who created sustainable and socially responsible films. Among the big winners, Director Lixin Fan picked up an award for best Investigative Documentary (along with oh so welcome cash) for his intriguing and visually stunning Last Train Home which highlights the story of a group of migrant factory workers on a taxing holiday trip back to their small village in modern China. It offers a stirring look at social justice and the dichotomy of modern versus old school China life.

The film beat out other feature documentary contenders including: Colony, where two Irish directors (Ross McDonnell and Carter Gunn) investigate the mystery of the vanishing bee colonies in California’s Central Valley and The Investigation of Dr. Nakamats.

In a nod to festival award recipient Roger Ebert, here’s a thumbs up to films that don’t have to resort to 3D to tell a story.

The Age of Stupid at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

http://sustainablog.org/files/2009/05/age_of_stupid_05.jpgThings must be getting serious. At least for the planet and the environment. What else would explain the plethora of eco documentaries hitting the film festival circuit or that will hit mainstream theaters in the near future? Many of these green docu films cast a waving finger along with charts and graphs about what will happen to the planet in the future if we don’t act now. The Age of Stupid works a bit in reverse.

The Age of Stupid takes place in the year 2055 with a man called the Archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) sitting in a Noah’s Ark type storage tower with a collection of famous art, pairs of animals, and enough computer servers to make Google envious.  The tower exists because the world has turned into a fiery, and flood ridden disaster area. The Archivist  searches through archived video footage to see where man went wrong after having the opportunity to change things. The film takes futuristic standpoint of looking at the present (like right now). (more…)

Battle For Terra Screens at 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Although the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival didn’t set out to program Green films, it may be no coincidence that several environment related or themed features and docs snuck their way into the diverse programming.

One of those films, first time director Aristomenis Tsirbas’s lushly animated Battle for Terra spotlights the peaceful planet of Terra where these wide-eyed tadpole looking denizens live. The Terrareans share the landscape (and skyscape) with sucking plants (a la Fantastic Planet) and flying whales in a healthy, peaceful environment – until the aliens attack. Only this time, humans represent the invaders complete with a jingoistic and aggressive mentality. The thing is that the humans used up all their resources back on Earth so then they decided to try their luck next door – Mars and Venus. Soon after colonizing the virgin neighbors, the three planets got into a battle royal and blew each other up so now the humans (in the form of Earth Force) need to take over the unspoiled Terra.

(more…)