The Big Beasts and the Smaller ones


The forest from 'Green The Film'



Went to the excellent Wildscreen Festival of wildlife documentary and environmental films last week (Oct 10th to 14th) at Watershed, Bristol. Lots of industry buzz and fascinating insights from an international range of ‘wild life’ documentary makers and commissioners, including discussions and demonstrations of 3D technology.

Despite the assertions of some speakers that “3D is definitely coming this time—all the big money (Sky and Sony, and a 3D iPad is on the way) . . . is being bet on it”, I learnt that apparently a significant percentage of the population (estimates vary but apparently 12% have problems with binocular vision) are not even able to view 3D. In fact a speaker from the Japanese industry at one session said they were still conducting careful medical research before committing (though a deep recession, given the cost of both makers’ equipment and sets at present may also drive such decisions, in Japan and elsewhere). At present lens changes can take up to an hour, so filming is very slow and expensive, but of course the industry is predicting that costs will soon go down.

In these sessions the excitement of film makers, and the omni-presence of the big money position together made it impossible to point to the tsunami of often toxic waste that will be produced by the necessary changeover to 3D viewing and making equipment. This will probably end up in waste dumps in Indonesia, for example, where kids will pick it over for valuable minerals (see MSB5 Globalisation chapter, and the ‘Ideologies and discourses’ case study on the eco-film The Age of Stupid).

Yet after all this blockbuster technology talk the most astonishing film I saw at the festival was not a ‘blue chip’ documentary – a term used across the festival to refer to very expensive, ‘high quality’ wild life programmes, which arguably rule out much questioning of what is happening to what we call the natural world since the emphasis is understandably on an immaculate kind of spectacle and expertise which will sell globally. The film was not in 3D, nor would it have gained much from being in 3D. I saw it in a tiny screening, almost by mistake. Imagine the pleasure of seeing it then get the Gold Award, as well as an Environmental award at the final ‘Panda’ Awards ceremony, and to learn it has had other prizes.
I don’t want to pre-empt your viewing with my own analysis of how it works its power. It focuses on the fate of one creature in Indonesia. Because it has no major distributor the maker (it was mostly made by one man, with some help on the very restrained soundtrack) has provided it free to download at . There he writes: ‘My name is Patrick, I am an ordinary citizen dedicated to preventing the destruction of the remaining tropical rainforest on Earth. I do so by making heartfelt films on the forest and the industries destroying it.’ At the final screening he spoke of how he himself does not like to be told what to do, and this maybe accounts for the credit which the viewer is given for intelligence, and for putting images and conclusions together in this film with no narration. This makes for a moving, gentle, very powerful story with the kind of end credits which not many of us have seen before. If you have 48 minutes to spare, sit down and attend to this film, and see if you don’t want to tell others about it.

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