Activist ire need a jump start? The Green Film Festival takes over Japantown's San Francisco Film Society Cinema now through Wed/7. Go for tidings on the fight for our planet around the world -- documentaries, expert panel presentations, and short films will be taking place. Check out Ali Lane's previous reviews from the festival here.
Just Do It
In this intimate peek inside the world of “Environmental Direct Action,” viewers will marvel at the organization and cooperation displayed by the film’s English subjects. Occupy Oakland could really learn a thing or two from these self-proclaimed “domestic extremists,” champions against climate change, who the filmmakers followed for a year. The film starts off in the lead-up to “Climate Camp,” a literal camp-out of protesters in a secret location on a hill above London. From here, the protesters plan an “action.” Their actions seem pretty harmless and whimsical: gluing their hands together and invading the trade floor of RBS to sing songs; putting up posters at the entrance of a bank that says “Undergoing Ethical Renovation”; handcuffing themselves to the front gate of an MP’s home in order to publicly berate his policies. But these protests work. They get the news media to cover topics that were previously ignored.
The subjects of this film are mainly photogenic young people, with a few seasoned veterans as well, like . Some are Cambridge educated. All are uniformly anti-capitalist, as they believe capitalism inevitably leads to exploitation of the environment. They designate spokespeople, meticulously map out their “actions,” and memorize the legal consequences and potential charges faced, making sure to minimize any criminal property damage along the way. Before going out on an action, they write the phone number of their organization’s legal counsel on their forearms. What they’re doing is certainly risky, disobedient, and outside the margins of normal behavior, but the viewer gets the sense that these people have their act together and aren’t much of a threat to civil society.
This is a very sympathetic portrait of a movement, and it’s clear where director Emily James’s heart is. Her subjects’ enthusiasm for the cause, and for activism in general, is infectious. By the end it’s hard not to feel like a lazy bum as one subject intones, “Anyone out there thinking, ‘I wanna do more,’ just do it!” Indeed, this film doesn’t just give an impetus, but also a blueprint for how such things can be done.
The lingering question I had while watching the film, however, remained unanswered: where did these people get their money, for camp tents, and massive amounts of food, and buses, and superglue, and d-locks, and ladders: everything that it takes to protest, and live full-time as a protestor. Where do those funds come from? Perhaps this is a question to ask the filmmakers at the closing night party.
Green Film Festival closing night film and party
Wed/7 7:30 p.m., $12 for film, $15 for film and party
SF Film Society Cinema
1746 Post, SF