The Union, December 18, 2008
Editor's note: The following review begins a four part series of film reviews for the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival that takes place in Nevada City Jan. 9, 10 and 11. Look for more of the series online at www.theunion.com/blogs/prospector.)
The film "Renewal" provides a quilt of eight activist stories. What makes "Renewal" such a bold show is who the activists are.
Catholics weave amongst Native American culture to protect land and water. Jews make the environment the core theme of a kids' camp. Evangelicals exercise opposition to big coal stripping and polluting their Appalachian Mountains. A farmer finds a market and a kinship with Muslims who relish his organic farming. Buddhists tout recycled paper, be it toilet paper or paper stock in high profile magazines.
Make controversy out of such religiously based activism if you want. The film "Renewal" does not.
We are all beholding to the same air, the same water, the same precious resources of Earth. "Renewal" recognizes that people of faith represent a vast well of activism. It can connect the grass roots of community with the grass roots of politics. "Renewal" reminds us that what cradles us all is more fundamental than what divides us.
One of the things that make the Environmental Film Festival so impressive is its variety of stories and fresh perspectives. "The Linguists" is a film that sounds geeky and academic, but actually, it entices you with the passionate and adventurous quest of a couple of unique globetrotters.
Between the two of them, Gregory Anderson and David Harrison speak more than two dozen languages. They know that of the world's 7000 languages, more than 6000 of them may go extinct before the end of the century.
Along with a chance spotlight on one of the most complicated numbering systems in the world or a language that medicine men teach their teenage sons so they can learn the family business, the linguists learn first hand about the legacy of conquered peoples and subverted cultures. They hear how speaking your own language can marginalize your identity amidst dominant culture.
"The Linguists" is an environmental action story that is fascinating even if the environmentalist dialect doesn't speak to you.
Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find links to his reviews for The Union at www.startlets.com; check out the film festival site at www.wseff.org. Excerpts from a Q&A between Chuck Jaffee and Seth Kramer may be found at www.theunion.com/blogs/prospector.