Last week we were happy to attend San Francisco’s first annual Green Film Festival!  About a month ago the festival organizers gave us a ring and ordered custom fair trade tees from our wholesale department. We were honored and pretty excited they would choose us to make their festival tees. But we were also excited to attend the festival. Due to us always working hard at Autonomie and with so many new products coming in for Spring, we could only make it to one film!

This was a difficult choice as the festival was stocked with tons of great environmental documentaries from all over the world. Almost every film on the list was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.  Many films were making their US or West Coast premiere, so we had a tough time choosing which film to attend. Titles included “They Came for the Gold, They Came for it All,” “In the Wake of the Flood,” and “Plato’s Cave,” just to name a few.

After some pondering, we finally decided on the film “Heavy Metal,” a submission from China which explored the issues of e-waste and documented people in China who have created their own “e-waste dismantling army.” It was going to be paired with the short “The Story of Electronics,” by the people who brought you the “The Story of Stuff.” Immediately following the film was the panel: E-Waste and Green Design. We were really looking forward to this panel, as it was going to be a discussion about the destruction caused by electronics and an exploration on ways to make the industry more sustainable.


So we hopped on the train and headed to the Embarcadero, but to our dismay, the film and panel had been cancelled. Apparently, the filmmakers were unable to make the trip from China. Luckily, one of our second choices was starting in only 15 minutes time. We decided to go see the movie “Soundtracker” with the short “The Coral Gardener.” Although initially disappointed about the cancellation of “Heavy Metal,” we were pleasantly surprised with our choice.

Before the film started, we made a pit stop to the cinema cafe, where we were delighted to find fair trade organic coffee as well as vegan cookies and vegan “sausages.” Well stocked on snacks and already in a good mood, we headed for our seats. The first film, “The Coral Gardener” was a quick eight minute short from the BBC about a passionate man working to replenish coral on the coast of Fiji. Corals are beginning to disappear from our seas due to coral bleaching caused by environmental stressors. There is a movement to grow healthy coral and re-plant them in hard hit areas.

The short was informative, inspiring, and made us want to get involved in the movement.  In fact, during the Q&A, we found out there is a whole organization: Corals For Conservation dedicated to this cause and they are always looking for volunteers. Snorkeling in tropical waters to help the Earth? We are there!  We also learned this short was made as a part of a BBC series on passionate people and may be turned into a full feature at some point. We will keep our eyes out for that!

The second, longer film: “Soundtracker” was actually a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Not only was it an interesting and largely ignored topic, but the cinematography and insight were truly a treat! The film follows Gordon Hempton, an Emmy award-winning sound recordist, as he travels through the Northwest on his search for the sounds of nature. Throughout the film you see Hempton attempt to record beautiful natural sounds, only to be interrupted by constant “noise pollution,” such as airplanes, helicopters, and cars. He points out that nature’s noise is disappearing at an alarming rate and man-made sounds are becoming the norm.

Hempton is an eccentric man, who has an obsession, much like a visual artist, to prefect sound. He seems to have made personal sacrifices and lives a fairly solitary life on his pursuit of the sound of nature. It may seem like an abstract concept and in reality it is, but Hempton has a point.  He is a very gripping person who almost turns his quest spiritual.  The film really drives home the lack of connection between humanity and the Earth. At one point in the film, he visits a large cedar tree that has been turned into a monument with the trunks of cut cedars all around it. He begins to get emotional and see it as almost a battle memorial to the fallen forest that once stood here.  To him, it is clear we have lost much of our connection as no one is “listening” and he even references the hum of electricity as “America’s mantra.”

By the end of the film, we felt connected to Hempton and  realized what a beautiful artist he really is. It also made you really, really think how little we get to hear complete natural sounds. We started to think of all the times we have had moments camping or out in the wilderness and how often we hear human noise pollution. It was definitely a different take on what is happening to our planet than other green films we have seen.

We also noticed that after the movie was complete, our ears were far more sensitive. We could hear our hands brush our hair, the sound of someone tapping their feet, and even people breathing. As we left the theater and walked through the rainy streets of San Francisco, we noticed we could hear the sounds of birds thundering over the horns, trains, and human voices. This deep film really is an abstract look on the destruction of our planet and will leave you seeing, or rather hearing nature in a different way.

We enjoyed both films immensely and certainly hope the Green Film Festival becomes an annual event in San Francisco! If you missed the festival, be sure to check out some of the films discussed above!

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