No doubt, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi wasn’t the final word on cinematography’s powerful capacity to depict the environmental consequences of our modern world. With Manufactured Landscapes comes Jennifer Baichwal’s depiction of photographer Edward Burtynsky‘s stunning images of industry in China. If it’s true that what is not mediated doesn’t exist, we can say now that at least one frightening slice of the world, albeit a pretty massive slice, is here for us to behold. Blink at your own risk.
This clip is from the Candian documentary, The World According to Monsanto. Since most people in the US will likely not see this, I recommend sharing and passing along the links. This is one of the scariest companies in the world and people need to know what is happening, in particular regarding genetically engineered foods. Incidentally, if you want to read a great book that deals with GMOs and why they are so dangerous to the web of life, I highly recommend Fritjaf Capra’s Hidden Connections.
Looks like a very interesting doc on virtual worlds, Second Skin. I love the title. It reminds me that human cultures going back to ancient times have always donned “second skins,” literally those of animals, and more recently synthetics we call clothing. My only quibble with the trailer is that it claims that that these virtual worlds are worlds that don’t exist. I beg to differ. I think they are very real, they just occupy space differently.
MPAA thinks the above poster is inappropriate for all audiences because hoods are scary.
Taxi to the Dark Side is a documentary, these bottom three are horror films whose graphic images are apparently agreeable to the general public, including the necons. The good news is that the documentarians got some free publicity out of this.
Alex Gibney’s new critically-acclaimed documentary Taxi to the Dark Side follows the path of Afghan taxi driver Dilawar, who was innocent of any terrorist ties but still “tortured to death by interrogators in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base.” It also examines the Bush administration’s torture practices at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has rejected Taxi’s poster, displayed to the right, as being “not suitable for all audiences.” The poster for the film simply shows two soldiers walking away from the camera, holding a hooded detainee between them.
If you haven’t read McLuhan’s The Guttenberg Galaxy, then you may get a lot out of this great video clip (click on the link below to view it) on the significance of the printing press and its relevance today as a way of explaining the explosive changes communications technology can have on a society.
The alphabet has been called the mother of all inventions. It dispensed its benefits and blessings unevenly – particularly when the entrance of the printing press industrialized its reach. This narrative around a collection of 15th century printed pages is a time stamp and reminder that information overload is nothing so new that a glance back 500 years may dimly reveal the dynamics of the digital road ahead.
The above clip (which I saw over at BoingBoing (via Africa Unchained)) is an intriguing portrait of Lagos, Nigeria. It demonstrates some of the trends of expanding megacities that characterize the so-called “global south.” My main objection to the segment is the recycled and uncritical use of the term “developing world.” African critics have long contended that this term is Eurecentric because it implies that they (non-Europeanized societies) are primitive versions of the central model of civilization. Are Nigerians supposed to develop into clones of us? Should Lagos become the “London of the future?” It’s an absurd proposition because London is a wealthy city predicated on the poverty that is distributed locally and across the globe. When Nigerians in the documentary hope that Lagos will become the next London or New York, they have internalized this Eurocentric view. But it’s not surprising given the role that global media corporations play in defining the ideals of the world. Who can fault them for not wanting the privileges afforded the global elites?
I think it’s better to think of places like Lagos and Mexico City as interconnected nodes. The reality may be that Lagos is really a microcosm of the world as a result of capitalist “evolution.” I qualify the term “evolution” because we often think that to evolve means to build better and more efficient solutions, but that is not always the case. For example, we may think of Western civilization as “evolved,” but it is in fact contrived. It is the result of many deliberate and planned decisions mixed with a bit of accident and synchronicity. Throughout history human agents have made conscious decisions about how to shape or respond to their environment. Some are more successful than others. The thing about “our” civilization, that is, the one that primarily inhabits the technological bubble, is that in the end we may not be so wise. That all depends on us, of course. This is why it is better not to think of Lagos as “their” reality. We are all interconnected.
I believe the documentarians intentions were good; they wanted to showcase a situation outside many of our normal reality, but that’s the problem of creating something as difference, i.e. they are different because they are not us. Frankly, I wish Current had actually asked local filmmakers to document their own city. Why do we need a white guide to interpret the place when a local one would be a lot more insightful and also supportive of the local economy? I doubt a local filmmaker would think of their environment as “fantastic” (in the fantasy sense) or bizarre. Black magic is not bizarre, and is probably mislabeled in this segment since the magic they speak of is designed to actually pacify bad people through nonviolent means. Maybe a Nigerian should come to London or San Francisco and make a report of the “black magic” that is seen every 10 minutes on television, something we call advertising.
As you probably heard, Bill O’Reilly is jumping the gun this year to wage his counter-offensive in the so-called War on Christmas. Couldn’t he at least wait until after Thanksgiving? Enter the anti-Bill, Rev. Billy, the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir crusader. Just in time for war, a new documentary about the Rev and his Christmas crusade, What Would Jesus Buy?, is about to make the battle really interesting. Who will win? Can xmas survive a corporate exorcism? You be the judge.
A preview for a cool little documentary based on a great book that dissects Hollywood stereptypes of Arabs, Reel Bad Arabs. The author, Dr. Jack Shaheen, is a really nice guy. I met him at the Taos Talking Pictures Film festival and saw the talk that this film is based on. It’s powerful stuff and badly needed. Please support him and what he has to say by sharing this video.
When I finished The Shock Doctrine, I sent it to Alfonso Cuarón because I adore his films and felt that the future he created for Children of Men was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones. I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists — including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited — to make The Shock Doctrine short film. It was one of those blessed projects where everything felt fated.” – Naomi Klein
Sicko finally came to Italy. There must be some strange pleasure in reviewing and inspecting the sickness that has emerged in the American social system. My Italian partner tells me that since WWII Italians have always looked up to the United States as the future, a kind of Utopia to works towards. This might explain Berlusconi’s misadventure in Iraq. With the Italians gone from Mesopotamia, Roman theaters now feature documentaries about Guantanamo Bay, the US healthcare system and the docudrama Death of a President get equal play with horror and action films. Is there still an American Utopia out there? The Simpsons Movie opens this weekend.
Sicko of course left me feeling disgusted. In Italy, as a legal resident I’m entitled to a doctor and free healthcare. The system here is not as perfect as those shown in Sicko, such as France, England, Canada and Cuba. During the pregnancy a few times we had to go to expensive private hospitals because the equipment we needed for tests had too long of a cue at the public hospital. But still, disregarding what we paid for tests, the cost of our daughter’s birth was 100 Euros. I asked people in the US what the typical cost of a hospital birth is, and I was told around $8,000.
Like many of the tales in Sicko, I have my own healthcare nightmare, and despite having insurance, I have spent at least $20,000 in the past seven years because of health issues that resulted from environmental toxins. One thing that people should pay attention to in Michael Moore’s documentary is that societies that invest more into healthcare and prevention have healthier people who live longer and therefore cost less to the system (duh!). Is American capitalism so attached to greed and selfishness that it is not even willing to invest in a prolonged and healthier life? It is a sad irony of the Protestant work ethic that the glory of material wealth is really meaningless when you are sick and dying.
Titled “Molotov’s Dispatches in Search of the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey,” the 35-minute documentary follows the titular avatar as he traverses the virtual world’s shores, acting as a stranger in a strange land as he explores the environment and observes the interactions of Second Life inhabitants. The documentary is being directed by Douglas Gayeton, whose prior work includes “Johnny Mnemonic: The Interactive Action Movie” on the PC.
I’m optimistic about The 11th Hour documentary because it features many Bioneers. If you don’t know about the Bioneers, the best way to learn about them is to go to their annual conference every October in Northern California, or attend one of their many satellite gatherings (see their site for locations and schedule). Though they look at the world critically, they also offer solutions. The conference is one of the few places that leaves me believing that there is a way out of our mess, and that practical solutions do exist. My sense is that the movie, though alarming in its trailer, will offer solutions as well.
Bioneers was conceived to conduct programs in the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, traditional farming practices, and environmental restoration.Our vision of environment encompasses the natural landscape, cultivated landscape, biodiversity, cultural diversity, watersheds, community economics, and spirituality. Bioneers seeks to unite nature, culture and spirit in an Earth-honoring vision, and create economic models founded in social justice.
Restoration addresses the premise that “sustainability” is problematic in the context of an environment that is already depleted. As Paul Hawken has noted, sustainability is simply the midpoint between destruction and restoration. The goal of Bioneers is restoration, addressing the interdependent array of economics, jobs, ecologies, cultures, and communities.
Bioneers are biological pioneers who are working with nature to heal nature and ourselves. They have peered deep into the heart of living systems to devise strategies for restoration based on nature’s own operating instructions. They come from many cultures and perspectives, and all walks of life.
Bioneers are scientists and artists, gardeners and economists, activists and public servants, architects and ecologists, farmers and journalists, priests and shamans, policymakers and citizens. They are everyday people committed to preserving and supporting the future of life on Earth. They herald a dawning Age of Restoration founded in natural principles of kinship, interdependence, cooperation, reciprocity, and community.
Uniting nature, culture, and spirit, Bioneers embody a change of heart – a spiritual connection with the living world that is grounded in social justice. Their pragmatic strategies effectively address many of our most pressing ecological and societal challenges.
Above all, Bioneers represent a culture of solutions. Their stories demonstrate that just as people have created the environmental and social problem we face, people can solve them – through a reciprocal partnership with nature. Over and over, they show how great a difference the actions of one individual can make.
Sorry for the infrequent postings, but I am traveling and running workshops with little Internet access and time. I’ll be back on a regular schedule soon. Meanwhile, here is a little film trailer to show that I remember and love you. I know it’s not so uplifting, but if there is one the we can do that will make us the “greatest generation” is to end the war.
Bergman traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media and the post-Watergate popularity of the press to new obstacles presented by the war on terror and changing economics in the media business and the Internet. The topic has special resonance for Bergman, whose career as a journalist for FRONTLINE, The New York Times, ABC News and 60 Minutes has included reporting on the issues that are critical to the current controversies. “There has been a perfect storm brewing in the world of news,” says Bergman. “Not since the Nixon administration has there been this level of hostility leveled at news organizations. … [But] unlike the confrontations of 35 or more years ago, today’s news war sees the very economic foundations of the business shifting.”
Anyhow, I want to draw your attention to a riveting documentary, The Revolution Will Not be Televised, that depicts a situation in which a coup d’etat was literally orchestrated by media in Venezuela. The filmmakers, an Irish crew that was in Caracas making a documentary about its controversial president, Hugo Chavez, happened to be in the presidential palace when a coup was staged. Regardless of what you think about Chavez, this is a rare film in which history actually unfolds on camera, and all I can say without giving too much away is that the documentary is absolutely incredible. Thankfully it’s now available on GoogleVideo at the above link. The movie demonstrates in the most literal example yet, how media under specific conditions could instigate wars, or at least light the match of a counterrevolution. Watch it and learn.
The story of National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) refusing a donation of DVDs by Inconvenient Truth co-producer Laurie David is flying all over the blogosphere right now. The following post from the Think Progress blog has a great link to the kind of oil and coal industry curricula the NATA does accept (it’s about a teen girl who discovers what life is like without petroleum, such as no lipstick!). Just goes to show there is nothing “neutral” about education, or the media used for teaching. But this being a “teachable moment,” I hope educators will show the Inconvenient Truth and the oil industry video linked below to teach about bias, not only in media, but in energy consumption as well. I encourage clicking through to the Think Progress post to read the whole thing.
In tomorrowâ€™s Washington Post, global warming activist Laurie David writes about her effort to donate 50,000 free DVD copies of An Inconvenient Truth (which she co-produced) to the National Science Teachers Association. The Association refused to accept the DVDs:
In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other â€œspecial interestsâ€ might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didnâ€™t want to offer â€œpoliticalâ€ endorsement of the film; and they saw â€œlittle, if any, benefit to NSTA or its membersâ€ in accepting the free DVDs. â€¦
[T]here was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place â€œunnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.â€
As it turns out, those supporters already include â€œspecial interests,â€ including Exxon-Mobil, Shell Oil, and the American Petroleum Institute, which have given millions in funding to the NSTA. And while the NSTA showed no interest in helping educators get copies of Al Goreâ€™s movie (which scientists gave â€œfive stars for accuracyâ€œ), it has distributed oil industry-funded â€œeducationalâ€ content, like this video produced by the American Petroleum Institute: (click this link to see the video)