Arts and CultureFilm & PhotographyNewsSF Bay Area

The 1st Livable Planet Film Festival Is Here!

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

The venerable San Francisco Green Film Festival became a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns in 2020.  But Bay Area filmgoing audiences who fear there will no longer be a local showcase for films speaking for the trees, the birds, and other parts of the ecosystem needn’t worry.  The folks behind the S.F. Independent Film Festival have just taken on the role of cinematic Loraxes with their newest film festival.

Earth Day 2021 will see the premiere of the Livable Planet Film Festival (hereafter “Livable Planet”).  From April 22 to May 2, 2021, Livable Planet will present films that “celebrate the blue marble we all live on and also confront the challenges we face in maintaining a livable planet.”  67 films from such countries as Ghana, France, the United States, and the Russian Federation will be available for streaming.

The films Livable Planet has selected celebrate everything natural from right whales to birds of prey to the migrating rhododendron.  But mixed with the cinematic celebrations selected for the festival are cautionary tales about exploitation of Third World countries’ resources, environmental collapse, and even avoiding getting killed by homicidal blue jeans.

Red Heaven

Here are some Livable Planet films to try:

a la fin–No reasonable person can look at the events and crises of 2020 and describe them as boring.  This animated film takes a semi-surrealistic look at the big problems that defined the past year.  Going from COVID-19 to the distractions of humanity’s electronic devices, Nicolas Lichtle’s film offers a poetic look at living amidst this confluence of crises.

The Art Of Pollution–This essay film takes viewers on a tour of ash ponds, red mud ponds, and chemical residue pools.  The colors seen in these man-made bodies of water are admittedly vibrant.  But will appreciating the visual appearance of these sites still be on the viewer’s mind once they’re aware of how the chemicals creating these memorable colors can also inflict extreme environmental damage?

The Burning Field–Welcome to Accra, Ghana.  Near this town is located one of the world’s largest e-waste dumps.   Meet three young men and one young woman on a typical day working at the dump.  Their job is to break down and burn appliances discarded by First World countries for salvageable copper and aluminum.  Consider this a sobering look at the other side of industrial society.


Chasing Ghosts–Would your curiosity and commitment be great enough to put up with standing in water filled with alligators or having to frequently swat mosquito-filled air?  Researchers and photographers spent three summers in the Florida swamps doing precisely that.  Their goal was to finally identify the pollinator of the iconic ghost orchid.  

The Conscience Of Clothing–Join fashion-blogger Willy Iffland and journalist Helen Fares on a documentary road trip through the Cambodian garment industry.  The two Westerners talk to various local players in an industry that employs a fifth of the Cambodian population.  Their aim: to answer the question of what “making fashion” means to the people who actually produce Westerners’ clothing and accessories.

Dear Mother Nature–Meet environmental activist drag queen Pattie Gonia.  She’s on a mission to show people how single-use plastics are screwing up Mother Nature aka Mother Natch.  Whether it’s cleaning up plastic fragments from Hawaii’s beaches or turning wreckage into provocative art pieces, she’s determined to prevent people from ignoring the problem.

Entangled–What happens when climate change sets your commitment to fulfilling two different objectives on a collision course?  That’s the awkward situation the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is stuck in.  On one hand, it’s trying to protect North Atlantic right whales from extinction.  On the other hand, it also has to protect one of North America’s most valuable fisheries.  How can both goals be met without creating a mess?

The Fourfold–This animated film provides an introduction to Mongolian and Siberian shamanistic and animistic beliefs via their rituals.   In this cinematic examination, the viewer will learn about the roles of Nature (humans’ homeland), Tengri (the deity and father sky), and Earth (the mother whose rivers nourish all beings).  Perhaps these beliefs can provide a welcome alternative to the predominant “man must conquer nature” mindset.


Landfall–Say “Puerto Rico disaster” and the average person will probably think of the devastation wrought on that land by Hurricane Maria.  But Maria’s hurricane winds would be the second crippling disaster to hit that U.S. Territory in a short period of time.  The first, lesser known disaster that roiled Puerto Rico would be its $72 billion debt crisis.  This documentary examines the lives of those attempting to rebuild in the wake of these twin disasters.  But disaster capitalists who saw opportunity in Puerto Rico’s crises would complicate recovery attempts. 

Once You Know–Let’s say industrial and ecological collapse will happen.  What ways are there to personally and collectively make peoples’ lives resilient enough to survive such an event and even thrive?  The director travels around the world in search of answers as he talks to climate scientists.  But could the key actually be found in his small mountain village?

Red Heaven–Why would six volunteers from around the world go to Hawaii to be physically isolated?  They’re helping NASA understand the effects of isolation on the human mind by spending a year at the agency’s Mars simulation station.  NASA scientists hope the information gleaned from this experiment will help them prepare for the first real human mission to Mars.


Slaxx–”Clothing to die for” takes on a whole new meaning in this horror-comedy.  New hire Libby is excited at being a store clerk for the “trendy yet incredibly ethical” Canadian Clothing Clothiers.  She’s come in on the night the clothing company will be introducing its new season line.  In pride of place is a pair of jeans fitted with new vacu-form technology.   The garment is supposed to make even out of shape bodies look good.  But what happens when the high-tech jeans start killing anybody in their vicinity…and the store personnel can’t escape because the place is locked down?

Being shown outside the festival program is the animated parable “More.”  It’s the story of a wannabe elderly inventor who lives in a grey joyless society.  He feels he’ll find happiness by turning his idea for an invention into reality.  Yet fulfilling his dreams of happiness turns out to be something the old man can’t invent.  This short became a Best Animated Short nominee at the Oscars and won a Best Short Film award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

Since the entirety of Livable Planet is being streamed, interested viewers can purchase one of several passes to catch however many films they want to see.  Dive in and choose the ticketing option that works for you.  And be prepared to see sights on this blue marble that you might be unaware of…until now.

Previous post

Scenes From Columbus, Where Police Just Shot A 15-Year-Old Black Girl

Next post

SF’s First-Ever H Mart Opens With Ribbon-Cutting, Huge Crowds

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.