Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Winter 2011 > In Review

In Review

Green Film Is Good Film

A Preview of the San Francisco Green Film Festival

movie poster graphic showing a cranky loking woman in a refuse dumpster full of paper plates

When you hear the words “green film festival,” the first thing to come to mind is probably not “entertainment.” Green films tend to be dry, if important, flicks that follow a particular issue or environmental leader and leave you, at the end, either inspired or enraged. Summer popcorn fare they are not.

True to form, the San Francisco Green Film Festival promises a number of earnest films, including Global Focus: The New Environmentalists, a series that chronicles the work of various Goldman Prize winners, and After the Flood, which follows Margaret Atwood as she tours the world performing theatrical versions of her climate-change-for-church-goers book, Year of the Flood.

But the festival’s coordinators have also managed to branch out a bit, expanding the idea of “green” to include films like Soundtracker, which follows Emmy-winning sound recording artist Gordon Hempton as he tries to chase down nature sounds that are quickly disappearing. In what he calls “sound portraits” Hempton works to capture the spirit of a place. In one clip, as he stands in a meadow with a train rushing through it, he says wistfully, “If I could get the sound of the train and the sound of the meadowlark in one recording that would do it. That would really capture the message of this place.”

The film Greenlit provides another nuanced look at the idea of “green” cinema. The film follows a movie production company as it tries to make a “green” film in Hollywood, pissing off actors and technicians along the way when it refuses to provide bottled water on set. Scenes of the film’s 20-something “environmental film consultant” getting flustered while explaining the set’s recycling protocol to the director are hilarious. The film also succeeds in showing how difficult it is to change the ways people do things, even if those people (like these, at the start of the film) all think the idea of “green” sounds pretty groovy.

Other festival entries worth checking out include Homegrown Revolution, about a Pasadena family that sets up an urban homestead next to the freeway and grows thousands of pounds of food a year, and SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories, which examines the history of corruption in Louisiana and how the state’s industries have affected, and continue to affect (post-BP oil disaster), local communities. Short films, including the beautifully shot Dark Side of the Lens – equal parts surf film and environmental snapshot – and the animated The Krill Is Gone, narrated by Sponge Bob himself – are also worth catching.

The best part? If you’re not in the San Francisco Bay Area, these are all films that will either be screening near you soon, or out on DVD: perfect for a green film night that’s surprisingly entertaining.

—Amy Westervelt

Save the Date
The San Francisco Green Film Festival runs March 3-11 at Embarcadero Center Cinemas and the Bentley Reserve.


Email this article to a friend.

Write to the editor about this article.

Subscribe Today
cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJFour issues of the award-winning
Earth Island Journal for only $10



No comments yet…

Leave a comment

Comments Policy

Please enter the word you see in the image below:


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!