8th San Francisco Green Film Festival Preview

by Peter Wong on September 4, 2018

The Condor And The Eagle

Sharp-eyed filmgoers will note the 8th annual edition of San Francisco’s Green Film Festival takes place later than usual in 2018.  The Festival’s timing, running from September 6 to 14 this year, coincides with the Global Climate Action Summit. This event, taking place in San Francisco from September 12-14, 2018, gathers world leaders who are supportive of the Paris Climate Agreement.  Needless to say, President Trump is highly unlikely to be represented at this summit.

On the other hand, the Festival has been listed as one of the Summit’s official Affiliate Events.  Festival viewers will be taken to such places as the Okavongo Delta, the Bel Monte Dam, Paris’ La Louve Coop, and even the skies of Earth.  Such venues as the Castro Theatre, the Cowell Theatre, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the San Francisco Main Library will host Festival screenings,  Quite a few of these screenings will feature one of the more than 100 guest speakers.

“It’s Elemental” has been adopted as this year’s official Festival motto.  The slogan balances the interplay between one of the four classic elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and a major environmental issue.  Hopefully, the Green Film Festival attendees will walk out of these screenings determined to make real political improvements in human protection of the environment (e.g. participating in the September 8 worldwide Rise For Climate march).  Here’s a sampling of this year’s Festival offerings:

Neil Gelinas’ documentary “Into The Okavango” opens the Green Film Festival festivities.  Botswana’s Okavango Delta provides water to over a million people. It’s also one of Earth’s last wildlife refuges that’s untouched by human development.  Gelinas’ film captures highlights from conservation biologist Steve Boyes’ four-month journey down the Delta’s rivers.

More visual splendor can be found in the Anne Flatte short “Symphony For Nature.”  Michael Gordon’s symphony “Natural History” was inspired by Oregon’s Crater Lake. Now a performance of Gordon’s piece requires coordinating the classical Britt Orchestra and the Klamath drum group Steiger Butte Singers.

America’s Red Power Movement would not have thrived and survived without the presence of Native American matriarchs.  Elizabeth A. Castle and Christina D. King’s “Warrior Women” looks at how matriarchs such as Madonna and Marcella Thunder Hawk played crucial roles in everything from the early days of the American Indian Movement to the present-day protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Green Film Festival Young Filmmaker award winner “Youth Unstoppable: The Rise Of The Global Climate Youth Movement” is what it says on the outside tin.  Director Slater Jewell-Kemker records how youth around the world push their local politicians to enact stronger legal protections for the environment.

Soumyaa Kapil Behrens’ “Nail House” is also a political film.  But its San Francisco politics focus doesn’t detract from the universality of its grassroots groups’ fight against gentrifiers over how a piece of local public property will be used.

A headline-grabbing statewide problem has global implications in local Bay Area filmmakers Kevin White and Stephen Most’s documentary.   “Wilder Than Wild: Fire, Forests, And The Future” examines how human fire suppression and extreme climate change led to such disasters as California’s Rim Fire.

Could carbon “draw down” strategies help reduce global warming by shrinking atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and replenishing Earth’s soil?   That’s the argument made by Marcy Cravat in her documentary “Dirt Rich.”

Brooklyn’s 16,000 member strong Park Slope Food Coop puts into everyday practice building non-capitalist based food production and distribution.  Tom Boothe’s “Food Coop” tells the Coop’s inspirational story, which has sparked the opening of a similar Coop in Paris.

A couple of Festival offerings make repeat appearances after screenings at earlier festivals.  These films are “The Human Element” and “Complicit.” Matthew Testa’s “The Human Element,” which previously screened at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival, follows photographer James Balog as he shows how the abstraction of climate change translates into concrete impacts on everyday Americans.  Heather White and Lynn Zhang’s “Complicit” makes a return visit to San Francisco after screening at this year’s San Francisco DocFest. This still rage-inducing film follows Chinese activist Yi Yeting and several other workers in Chinese electronics manufacturing companies as they seek recompense for occupational leukemia and other diseases contracted thanks to heavy chemical exposure during the manufacturing process.  The film’s title refers to the guilty culprits responsible for these workers’ illnesses, ranging from corrupt Chinese government officials to Western consumers who don’t think twice about the human cost of building electronic devices.

Attendees with further interest in Chinese environmental issues should check out the shorts program “Pushing Change: Shorts From China’s Environmental Edge.”  This collection of five short films deal with such subjects as dislocation via ecosystem destruction and panda habitat conservation. Cinephiles will particularly look forward to Jia Zhangke’s portrait of China’s pollution-plagued cities.

The Bruce Parry documentary “Tawai: A Voice From The Forest” shows life outside of urban zones and pollution is possible.  “Tawai” refers to the inner connection to nature experienced by Borneo’s nomadic hunter-gatherers. Life lessons are offered from people around the world whose existences greatly differ from urban inhabitants.

Closing out this year’s San Francisco Green Film Festival is “The Condor And The Eagle.”  Sophie Guerra and Clement Guerra’s documentary follows the journey of four Indigenous leaders from the Canadian plains to the heart of the Amazonian jungle.  The aim is uniting the people of North and South America, but the leaders’ attachment to the Earth and one another also changes.

Finally, make time for such sister events as “Reel Science Challenge,” which pairs filmmakers with climate scientists to make movies, or the “Coal + Ice” photographic exhibit.  Whatever event you attend to raise personal awareness, you’re doing more than submitting to the greed and neglect promoted by Trump.

(The 8th San Francisco Green Film Festival runs from September 6-14, 2018 at such venues as the Castro Theatre and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  For further information about these and other offerings, go to www.greenfilmfest.org/festival .)

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