Over the years the Sundance Film Festival has introduced a number of groundbreaking environmental documentaries that surprised the world with the depth and scope of their popularity. Films like The Cove, An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car all debuted at the annual Salt Lake City festival and leveraged their critical acclaim to catapult their message into the public eye, garnering support and notoriety along the way. This year’s film festival is at about the half-way point and includes two environmentally focused films that are already sold out and booked solid. The Last Mountain http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0563_RTvx6s
It’s easy to forget that each time we turn on a light, we are contributing to the ecological damage caused by the coal that generates electricity in this country. The Last Mountain gives us plenty of reasons to remember. Contaminated air, soil, and water; coal dust, cancer clusters, and toxic sludge are all by-products of this widespread energy source. Focusing on the devastating effects of mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley, filmmaker Bill Haney illustrates the way residents and activists are standing up to the industry and major employer that is so deeply embedded in the region. With strong support from Bobby Kennedy Jr. and grassroots organizations, awareness is rising in the battle over Appalachian mountaintop mining. Forces are aligning to prevent coal removal on Coal River Mountain and preserve the region’s precious natural resources. Superb storytelling and exquisite photography combine to remind us that this environmental calamity impacts us all.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDBb1F2tiNs
Marshall Curry’s documentary tells a timely story of political action and environmental beliefs at loggerheads. His reconstruction of the recent history and unraveling of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a fascinating exploration of a modern revolutionary movement and its efficacy. Fusing fervent concerns about ecological imbalance and capitalism run amok, ELF members and sleeper cells employed economic sabotage by destroying facilities involved in deforestation to remove the profit potential from companies wreaking environmental destruction. Focusing on Oregon-based activist Daniel McGowan, Curry relates the tale of a mild-mannered, middle-class citizen driven to extremes and brought to trial on charges of terrorism for his participation in ELF-related arson plots. Detailing activists’ past disillusionment with public protest—and the police brutality and inertia that often followed—the film poses difficult questions about the possibility of effecting change from either within or without the system and examines the changed stakes for revolutionaries today in a world fixated on branding all dissenters as terrorists.