Suffering through the late night throes of programming for Cinema Politica I stumbled upon what seemed to be a promising documentary called Greenlit, a film about sustainability and the film industry, made by LA insiders. It had a light-hearted start that seemed to me conspicuously set up to suck in the non-environmentalists and the “average” Joes and Janes out there. The funny, earnest and very likeable filmmaker, Miranda Bailey, who can usually be found making fiction films in LA, debates the merits of “going green” with her republican husband and liberal friends and family members. There is even some debate over whether global warming is occurring or not – shock! A particularly telling moment comes when her seemingly closed-minded husband agrees to watch An Inconvenient Truth but gets up after just a few minutes of the film and walks away (thanks for the support honey!).
So with this beginning, I was intrigued to see where the film would go, and the ensuing trials and tribulations of an earnest industry green architect are interesting and entertaining, but the ultimate message of Greenlit is doubly depressing. Number one: the film industry is full of assholes who won’t change because they’re lazy, privileged, self-serving jerks (meaning Hollywood will continue to be one of the biggest polluting, most consuming and least sustainable industries on the planet). Number two: we—us little individuals—CAN make a difference by doing safe little things like using reusable coffee cups (as the filmmaker proudly displays at the end of the film). Greenlit ends with text explaining the doc wasn’t a “green film” and lists all the crap the crew consumed (including an alarming amount of air travel for one 52 minute documentary) for the making of this film about the greening of the film industry. So we can’t make a sustainable movie about sustainability, but fear not – we’re using reusable coffee cups now!! Good god, what an exercise in American liberalism writ large.
After tossing aside this sad little film that had so much promise I thought about real change and real commitment and people doing real, tangible, effective, monumental things that will actually help this planet and those of us who want to live on it for a lot longer. With this in mind, I bring you this week’s Friday Film Pick, Earthkeepers, a great feature doc directed by Syvlie Van Brabant that travels the globe (also not a green film, it has to be said) and introduces a small army of folks doing great things to sustain life and clean things up.
After working in the film industry for nearly a decade, I can attest to the rampant attitudes and lack of policy that prevent things from getting better in the land of make-believe. Slow-growing mahogany wood sets are built, used once, and binned. Massive amounts of garbage, including recyclables and organic waste, accumulate every day of production and disappear into landfills. Trucks are left running, actors are picked up and driven around alone in vehicles all day long. Insane amounts of energy are used to make a dark studio a sunny beach or a sunny street a snowy night. The whole thing chugs along for the sole purpose of entertaining people and making money. And there is little alarm raised, with next to no protest.
So check out Earthkeepers, an NFB film chalk full of solutions, and maybe we should all think about what we can do to change the film industry and its unsustainable, wasteful ways. Earthkeepers can be purchased here.