Inside D.C. entertainment

A manageable guide to the overwhelming Environmental Film Festival

March 15, 2011 - 01:29 PM
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Wind turbines are monsters that will devour your children.

Well, the Environmental Film Festival sure is arriving at an interesting time. After managing a quarter century without a catastrophe — and thus, earning broad political support in the U.S. — the nuclear energy industry is on the brink of a major setback, what with the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant seeming to worsen by the day. There are at least four films at this year's festival, which begins today, that raise concerns about nuclear energy or weapons. Why do I write "at least"? Is it that hard to count? Well, yes. Over the next two weeks, the festival is screening 150 films at more than 60 venues in the District. If that doesn't sound overwhelming, then I entreat you to browse the massive program [pdf] for yourself. Or you could join me on this trail strewn with embedded videos, which you won't find on the EFF's website.

(Click on titles for showtimes and locations.)

Backwoods Philosopher

This Finnish drama teams two university biologists with an "uneducated but smart" lumberjack who go tromping through the country's remote backwoods and, if this unsubtitled trailer is any indication, spend most of their time cackling and waving their arms like flightless birds.

Black Ocean

This appears to be a tone poem about a French naval vessel patrolling Pacific waters in 1972, while nuclear tests are being conducted. Looks very pretty, and very French.

Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez

The other day, a friend asked me why the Valdez spill seemed worse than the BP spill, which was much greater. I didn't have an answer until I read this. And now I'm curious to see this documentary, even if the narrator grates a little.

Burning the Future: Coal in America

Mountaintop coal removal is the new fast-food industry of environmental docs.

Cities on Speed: Bogotá Change

This trailer is NSFW because it ends with former Bogotá Mayor Antanas Mockus mooning a crowd. Why can't our mayors be more like that? I'd take nudity over patronage any day.

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio

A documentary about Samuel Mockbee, the late architect whose Rural Studio enlisted Auburn University students to create progressive architecture for impoverished communities in rural Alabama.

A Community of Gardeners

A documentary about community gardening in D.C. Says one woman, "I now hate golf courses and lawns." I think her garden would make for a perfect bocce court.

Countdown to Zero

This film isn't nearly as good as Lucy Walker's other 2010 documentary, Waste Land, but if you feel like getting freaked out about nuclear weapons, be my guest.

The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos

Kind of like March of the Penguins, but with flamingos in northern Tanzania.

Cry of the Andes

It's water vs. gold in this Peruvian showdown. Can water pull off the upset?

The Eagle Hunter's Son

I'd watch pretty much anything shot in Mongolia.

El Muro

The new border fence between San Diego and Tijuana isn't just politically controversial, but environmentally, too, as it has destroyed the last unobstructed estuarine wetland on the California coast.

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

The famous (in Canada, anyway) scientist, environmentalist, and TV host looks back on his life. Sorta like a cross between this and this.

Ghost Town

A long, immersive doc about a Chinese village that's being left behind. This might be the most promising film on the festival slate.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Though this teaser doesn't indicate as much, this documentary about the northern Russian people is narrated by Werner Herzog, so I don't think I need to say anything more.

Houston, We Have a Problem

The problem: our dependence on oil. I hope this doc tells us something we don't already know.

How I Ended this Summer

Alas, another narrative feature. This one comes from Russia, and appears to be a cabin-fever thriller.

Into the Cold

These guys spent two months trying to reach the North Pole. The least you can do is watch the 86 minutes of footage that resulted.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy

The evils of planned obsolescence.

Nostalgia for the Light

Utterly lacking in humidity, Chile's Atacama Desert is the best place in the world to view the stars, and thus it's a Mecca for astronomers.

Oka! Amerikee

A drama, based on a true story, about an American ethnomusicologist living in the Central African Republic and a tribe threatened by the logging industry.

On Coal River

Remember what I said about mountaintop coal removal?

Over Your Cities Green Grass Will Grow

A quasi documentary about German artist Anselm Kiefer, who likes to get his hands dirty.

Plastic Planet

Pretty self-explanatory.

The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island

A bunch of Greenpeace vets are living on a small New Zealand island now. Pathetic.

The River Why

Matt Saracen trades in his football for a fishing rod, still seems lost.

Summer Pasture

A documentary about a nomadic Tibetan couple and the impact of modernization on their pastoral traditions. It actually looks more interesting than I'm making it sound.

Tropical Malady

This Thai film won the Jury prize at Cannes in 2004...

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

...and this Thai film won the Palm d'Or at Cannes in 2010.

Vanishing of the Bees


Voyage of Plastiki

Get it? Like the Kon-Tiki, but plastic.

White Lion

Baby white lions will crush you with their cuteness.

The Wind Journeys

In this Colombian drama, a man travels along the coast to return a Devil-cursed accordion to its rightful owner. Beware the parable.


Wind energy is a great thing, right? Not if those turbines are chopping at your sanity!

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