The Green Film Festival takes a step toward saving the world

The Bay Area hosts about 60 film festivals a year. Many of them are about certain types of movies (silent, noir, documentaries). Others focus on particular kinds of people (Jews, Arabs, Asian Americans). But others, such as the Green Film Festival, have a message. They want you to leave the theater ready to make a better world.

This year, the festival’s theme is Home. After all, there’s no place like it. Issues that fit the theme deal with affordable housing, refugees, sustainable cities, and that ultimate home we all need to protect, the Earth.

This year’s following Sunday the 29th. The festival will screen over 50 new films (almost all of them documentaries) and over 100 speakers. Venues include the Castro, the Roxie, and the Exploratorium.

Here are four films I’ve seen and what I thought of them, in order of quality:

A Centerpiece Presentation: Cooked: Survival by Zip Code
Director Judith Helfand carefully and methodically shows us why natural disasters hit hardest in poor neighborhoods. In 1995 Chicago, a heatwave killed more than 700 people, almost all of them in poor and black. While centering on the Chicago heatwave, the film also covers Katrina and other disasters. Intelligently, entertainingly, and I’m pretty sure accurately, she explains why disaster relief is almost always for the wealthy. This is a must-see for every American. I just hope it gets seen by enough of them.

I saw this excellent doc at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Saturday, September 28, 6:00, at the Roxie.

A- Opening Night: Push

Everyone who lives in the Bay Area (or any urban area) knows that affordable housing no longer exists. Fredrik Gertten’s documentary shows that there’s more to this than just gentrification. Large corporations such as Blackstone have turned the housing market into a commodity, destroying neighborhoods and making it impossible for even middleclass people to live in cities. Gertten follows Leilani Farha, a determined and photogenic woman who works as the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing. It’s worth sitting through the closing credits.

Push opens the festival at the Castro on Tuesday, September 24, at 7:30.

A- The Age of Stupid
Filmmaker Franny Armstrong uses a science fiction framework to follow several non-fiction documentary threads, showing us how we’re making our planet less livable. In the fiction part of the film, British actor Pete Postlethwaite plays The Archivist (yes, Postlethwaite died in 2011, but the film was made in 2008). It’s the year 2055, and he shows us video clips to explain how people destroyed the planet. In the documentary sections, we follow the disaster of Katrina from the point of view of one of its heroes, visit people in Africa horribly exploited by an oil company, and watch a British family fight for the right to put windmills on their property. This film may make you guilty about flying.

You can see The Age of Stupid at the Little Roxie on Sunday, September 29, at 1:00 in the afternoon.

B- Closing Night Premiere: 16 Sunrises

Cinema verite in outer space. French and American astronauts go the international space station, and for several months do tests, bond with other astronauts, feel lonely, and have fun with zero-g. Everyone is nice and friendly, and it’s fun to see these people living in close quarters and floating about. But it’s often very slow for no good reason. Christmas decorations are mentioned but never seen. Director Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff thinks there’s something profound in one French astronaut’s obsession with the works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The title refers to the 16 sunrises the astronauts see every 24 hours.

I’m not sure if this is really a green documentary. There are a couple of comments about climate change, and one rap about how borders aren’t visible in space.

It screens Sunday, September 29, 8:00, at the Roxie.