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The San Francisco Green Film Festival is Here and it is Awesome!

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What’s manly about taking pride in actively trashing Earth’s environment?  For those who feel such behavior is an example of toxic masculinity, a creative refuge exists.  It’s the return of the San Francisco Green Film Festival (hereafter SFGFF), whose ninth edition offers more constructive stories about humanity’s relationship to the planet it lives on.

Running from September 24-29 at such venues as the Castro Theatre, Manny’s, and Piers 15 & 17, the 2019 celebration of green ideas and actions is timed to coincide with the UN Climate Action Summit as well as the Global Climate Strike.  The 60 new films and over 100 guest speakers at this year’s SFGFF will wrestle with various aspects of the ninth festival’s theme “Home.” In their individual ways, this year’s festival’s films and speakers offer different answers to the question “What does home mean to you, and how can we work together to protect it?”

To help you get started picking SFGFF films to see, here are some suggestions:

16 Sunrises

16 Sunrises–SFGFF’s Closing Night Film takes viewers to the International Space Station, which orbits 450 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.  Here, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has come aboard the station to do a six months tour. Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff’s documentary shows Pesquet’s life with his fellow astronauts is not simply doing experiments or work 24/7.  The station’s astronauts can watch Earth having 16 daily sunrises. They can use their zero gee environment to play with everything from a saxophone to baseball-sized water droplets. Their vantage point even allows the station’s astronauts to see from space superstorm weather patterns.  Can the spirit of international cooperation that makes the station run be something reproducible on earth? Le Goff will appear in person. (Roxie Theatre)

5 Blocks–San Francisco’s Central Market Street area has unfortunately earned a decades-long reputation as a “grime and crime” area.  Both long-time residents and newbies want cleaner streets, less crime, and less open drug use. However, how can area revitalization be made to serve the needs of two entirely different populations?  On one hand, the very poor long-timers need inexpensive housing, inexpensive restaurants and other public places to meet. On the other hand, the young tech workers coming into the Central Market Street area want trendy high-end places. Screening features filmmaker Dan Goldes and several subjects from the film in attendance.  (Roxie Theatre)

The Age Of Stupid and The Age Of Stupid Revisited–10 years ago, Rachel Caplan watched Franny Armstrong’s fictional documentary.  Pete Postlethwaite played a man living in the year 2055 who wondered why humanity didn’t stop climate change when it had the chance.  Armstrong’s film inspired Caplan to found SFGFF. Now, ten years after that film’s first appearance, SFGFF offers both a ten years later anniversary screening of Armstrong’s original documentary as well as a short update telling what changes (if any) have been made since the original film’s release.  Director Franny Armstrong will appear via Skype at the screening. (Little Roxie Theatre

Phosphorus Mining (from Anthropocene)

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch–Because human activity has brought incredible changes to both Earth’s climate and the environment, scientists have dubbed our current geological age the “anthropocene.”  This film from Ed Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas de Pencier shows concrete examples of human geo-engineering large and small literally impacting everything on the planet.  It might not be possible to reverse all the damage humanity’s inflicted on the Earth, but it’s still obligated to try. Part of a special nationwide screening event in connection with the United Nations Climate Summit. (Roxie Theatre)

Cooked: Survival By Zip Code–If you missed the SFGFF Centerpiece Film at its SF Jewish Film Festival premiere, here’s another chance to see Judith Helfand’s quietly infuriating documentary about environmental racism and disaster survival.  In July 1995, a multiple day Chicago heat wave wound up killing over 500 people. Tracking revealed that a majority of the heat-related deaths occurred in the poorer parts of the city. Why did this happen and what can be done to prevent a repeat of this disaster?  Helfand will appear in person at the screening. (Roxie Theatre)

Earth–Meet the people whose day job is taking possession of Mother Earth.  Famed Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s new documentary presents the men who move mountains for a living, whether via bulldozer or dynamite.  While the breathtaking results yield increasingly finite resources for human use, the long term consequences of such destructive possession get shoved into a mental wastebasket. (Roxie Theatre)

The Green Lie–If you think saving the Earth is just a matter of buying the right thing, odds are you’ve been taken in by corporate greenwashing.  Such big business PR campaigns mislead consumers into believing a company’s cleaned up its polluting ways…when it actually hasn’t. Director Werner Boote’s film shows viewers that long-term preservation of the Earth needs far more than aware consumers; it needs determined political engagement.  (Little Roxie Theatre)

Push

Push–”Housing as a human right” should be an official policy in our cities, not a controversial stand.  Yet around the world, far too many people are being pushed out of cities thanks to insane rent hikes or housing built solely as investment vehicles.   SFGFF’s Opening Night Film is a must-see portrait of this worldwide crisis. The film comes from veteran documentary maker Fredrik Gertten, whose “Big Boys Go Bananas” showed he’s not afraid of making movies that afflict the comfortable.  “Push” captures how international financialization of the housing market has been the prime driver of the unaffordability crisis. Gertten tells this story primarily by following the travels of Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur On Adequate Housing as she goes from Valparaiso to London to meet people affected by the housing crisis. Don’t hold your breath waiting for luxury housing developers or YIMBY types to see Gertten’s film as a wake-up call to change their ways. (Castro Theatre)

The River And The Wall–Ben Masters’ timely documentary asks and answers several important questions not being asked by those enraptured by the racist fantasia of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.  Among those questions are: What sort of terrain would a wall be built on? How would people whose livelihoods depend on easy access to the Rio Grande be affected by a wall?  How would wildlife be negatively impacted by the presence of a wall? The answers Masters and four friends uncover by traveling 1200 miles along the Rio Grande from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico show why a border wall would be both ineffective and a stupid waste of money.  Although the film does some political bipartisan dunking, Masters’ film ultimately brings home why a border wall’s existence is a literal crime against nature. (Little Roxie Theatre)

Walden

Walden–How can something as dry as following globalized trade routes be grist for a meditative film?  Daniel Zimmerman’s amazing documentary answers that question by following the path of an Austrian fir tree.  From the moment the tree gets chopped down and processed into wooden planks, the film tracks the planks’ travels until their arrival at their ironic ultimate destination:  the heart of the Brazilian rainforest. Thirteen 360-degree shots capture the stages of travel along the trade routes. A Broke-Ass Free Screening. (Switzerland at Pier 17)

Aside from film screenings, SFGFF will offer exciting live events.  Manny’s will play host to the Impact Film Forum, where environmental thought leaders, filmmakers, and change makers take part in discussions around the issues raised by SFGFF’s 2019 films.  These panels include Judith Helfand talking about environmental justice and young climate activists talking about the Global Climate Strike.

The Takeover Of Piers 15 & 17 sees SFGFF team up with the Exploratorium and Switzerland at Pier 17 to present an evening of interactive eco-art exhibits, screenings of such films as Walden and Nature’s Nickelodeons, and even a fog bridge across the water.    

Walking Cinema Museum of the Hidden City

Finally, if you have a smartphone, you can engage in a self-guided walking tour of San Francisco’s 80-year experiment in providing affordable housing.  Download the audio and Augmented Reality app from The Museum of the Hidden City and take part in Walking Cinema: Museum of the Hidden City.

There are more SFGFF events to choose from, but the above gives you a nice sampling of what’s out there. 

For young student readers of Broke-Ass Stuart’s or those inspired by the Global Climate Strike to learn more, the SFGFF will be particularly attractive.  If you’re 18-and-under, and have a valid Student ID or EBT card, you can attend any SFGFF screening for free. For the not-physically-young, there are still several free or low cost events at SFGFF.

Thanks to the Orange Skull and his corrupt/greedhead friends, caring about keeping the Earth habitable for future generations has become a more urgent task than ever.  But as the SFGFF’s continued existence shows, it can be a task that can be worked on with many other like-minded activists from around the world.

(For further information about the 2019 San Francisco Green Film Festival, go to http://greenfilmfest.org .)  

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.