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An EarthRights guide to DC's 2012 Environmental Film Festival
by Brad Weikel
Earlier this week, the nation's largest environmental film festival kicked off in DC. Many of these films will go on to other festivals around the world, so I decided to scour the schedule and highlight the films that caught my eye, most of which intersect with the issues we work on here at EarthRights International.
Next Tuesday will be the world premiere screening of Deafening Silence, an exploration of ethnic conflicts and censorship in Burma. The film's director, Holly Fisher, interviewed our Executive Director, Ka Hsaw Wa, for her 2001 feature Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing and Holly tells me Ka Hsaw Wa makes an appearance in her new film, as well.
Also coming out of Southeast Asia is Waking the Green Tiger: A Green Movement Rises in China. The title is fairly self-explanatory, but I'm particularly excited about the details: the film focuses on a grassroots campaign to stop a huge hydropower dam on the Upper Yangtze River, which in China's Yunnan Province passes less than 30 miles from the Mekong River, the subject of much of our work in the region.
Bhopali, which will screen twice next week, looks at public health and poverty in the Indian city of Bhopal, which was devastated in 1984 by the worst industrial disaster in history. ERI is co-counsel for residents of Bhopal who are seeking damages from Union Carbide (now owned by Dow) for water contamination at the abandoned chemical plant, and resulting illnesses in their community. At its second screening, Bhopali will be paired with two other short films on the impacts of multinational corporations on local communities.
Tonight, in less than an hour, the wonderful Gala Hispanic Theater will screen two films about the impacts of oil on the Ecuadorian Amazon: Yasuni, A Wild Idea and Sucumbios, Land Without Evil. If this topic catches your interest, there's another great film in production as we speak: my friend Ryan Killackey, a talented filmmaker and wildlife biologist, is halfway through production of his own film,Yasuni Man, funded by small donations on Kickstarter.
At Natural Resources / Unnatural Results: Access, Explotation and Accountability, five very short films will be followed by a panel discussion which will include my colleague Amol Mehra, of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable. The films are Peru's Gold Rush, Guerrilla Mining in Guiana's Midst, The Dark Side of Colombia's Gold Rush, Ghana: Oil Boom, Fishing Fears, and The Penan of Borneo.
Finally, while we don't work directly on domestic energy issues, we do care a lot about them, and four films on these issues stand out: The Big Fix and Beyond Pollution both look at the environmental, economic and human health impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the Louisianna coast, and Dirty Oil and Pipe Dreams both examine the potential impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline and tar sands extraction.
On a more personal note, I'm disappointed to have already missed Transcending Boundaries: Perspectives from Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park; I grew up a mere 140 miles from West Glacier and spent many summer nights camping there as a child, and would have enjoyed learning more about the conservation issues the park is facing.
And I hope I'll be able to catch the Animated Retrospective on Saturday, a screening of four animated short films including The Man Who Planted Trees, a hauntingly beautiful call for environmental stewardship that is also one of my favorite films of all time.