Reviews of Books and Films - 2007 Winter
A Trust for the Future project, 58 minutes
Do you know where your electricity comes from? Filmmaker Jeff Barrie poses this question in Kilowatt Ours, a quirky new film about energy use. He explains that America generates 50 percent of its electricity from coal, which is cultivated through the unsustainable and environmentally damaging process of mountaintop removal. Barrie chronicles the ongoing devastation caused by coal mining and conducts heartbreaking interviews with those suffering from health problems caused by this industry.
The film succeeds by educating and empowering viewers, rather than simply lecturing on the issue. Barrie travels throughout the Southeastern United States, highlighting homes, schools and businesses that use green power. Geothermal heating and cooling and solar and wind power are all explored as sources of alternative energy (though it is important to keep in mind that wind turbines can harm birds, bats and marine life, and special care should be taken to place turbines away from their habitats).
Barrie and his wife take on the challenge to conserve energy themselves by using compact florescent light bulbs and energy efficient appliances and by investing in green power. In the end, they save money and significantly reduce the amount of unsustainable energy that they use. A large global problem becomes refreshingly digestible through this personalized battle to conserve energy. Barrie emphasizes the little changes we can all make, and he challenges us to use this film as a tool to reduce our own energy consumption.
Fast Food Nation
20th Century Fox, 113 minutes
In the film adaptation of Eric Schlosser's 2001 book Fast Food Nation, director Richard Linklater worked with the author to present a fictional story that delivers an eye-opening message about the fast food industry. Using the stories of characters affected in various ways by the industry—a teen girl working at a fast food restaurant, a corporate executive in charge of marketing for the chain, and immigrant workers laboring inside its unsafe, unsanitary slaughterhouse—they show the audience why we should all care where our food comes from. While some issues discussed in the book are left out, the movie portrays shocking scenes of violence against both animals and workers inside the plant. This is a film that anyone who chooses to eat meat should see.
A Life Among Whales
Uncommon Productions, 57 minutes
An educational and inspirational tale is chronicled in the film A Life Among Whales. As the son of a sailor and a musician, Dr. Roger Payne gained an appreciation for the ocean and music at an early age and grew up to be a committed whale conservationist and biologist. When studying humpback whale vocalizations, he discovered that whales sing actual songs—an invaluable finding to the whale conservation movement.
Interviews with Payne are combined with footage from the original "Save the Whales" campaign, and awe-inspiring underwater whale footage is effectively contrasted with graphic whaling clips. Payne provides a comprehensive summary of man's volatile coexistence with these animals and explains the unraveling of his life's work with the advent of "scientific whaling." He identifies other current threats to whales, such as pollution. However, Payne expresses faith that future generations can once again save the whales. Drawing a parallel to the speedy fall of the Berlin Wall, he has not given up on the power of humanity—he believes that we only need to decide that a change is needed to make it happen.