As one of the talking heads in The Planet–the most comprehensive of the many environmentally minded movies showing as part of the new Climate for Change series at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival–puts it succinctly, "It's not just climate change, it's global change."
Those films at this year's festival, which takes place September 27 to October 12 (full schedule at www.viff.org/), are competing for a $25,000 prize offered by aptly named fest sponsor Kyoto Planet, a green investment firm.
"This is the most substantial cash prize ever given at our festival," VIFF festival director Alan Franey recently told the Georgia Straight, "and one of the biggest at any festival."
Titles in the series range from the extreme macro of The Planet, a dazzling Swedish-made documentary (in English) that includes NASA–type views of the Earth, to the micro view of The Unforeseen, an equally mesmerizing documentary study of untrammelled growth in Austin, Texas. Terrence Malick and Robert Redford were executive producers on the lyrical film, directed by Laura Dunn, and are scheduled to attend the fest. Also on hand will be Oliver Hodge, the British-born director of Garbage Warrior, which contains some radical notions about recycling waste material while building eco-friendly homes.
Falling somewhere between macro and micro is The Green Chain, a first feature for Mark Leiren-Young, a long-time Straight contributor as well as a playwright and comic performer who long tickled Vancouver audiences with his satirical Local Anxiety troupe before moving to Toronto for most of this decade to work on series television and freelance journalism.
Last summer, he returned to B.C. and made Chain, a series of monologues representing the ongoing conflict between loggers and environmentalists (and featuring, among others, Babz Chula, August Schellenberg, and Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica and Playboy-cover fame). He is back in Toronto when the Straight catches up with him–covering the Toronto International Film Festival as a freelance journalist while also promoting his own film here. (Chain was in the Montreal fest, too.)
"This is something I wanted to do with John Juliani," he says by cellphone, referring to the late Vancouver theatre guru. "We always wanted to tell 'tree stories'. We kept pitching it to CBC and others, to no avail. It's funny, because we never saw it as a stage piece. Then when John died, I wrote this for Savage God Day, which the City of Vancouver declared on John's birthday."
Leiren-Young's main concern was to put the film on the provincial circuit, getting it to rural areas where the issues it raises would hit home. "In theatre, it's easy to tune out whoever and whatever you don't like," he says. "When we toured with Local Anxiety, there were definitely places where the audience didn't want to hear our environmental songs. So we wanted to make a film that, if it made it to Prince George or the Cariboo, people would sit all the way through it."
The film will be seen alongside almost a dozen titles in the Climate for Change series, all of them meant to stir discussion and maybe even global change.
"It's an amazing program," Leiren-Young says, "and I love that it's happening in Vancouver. B.C. is seen as ground zero for environmental issues in general. You look at Greenpeace, ForestEthics, even the Raging Grannies in Victoria. When you make an environmental joke here, everyone gets it. They might not like it. But they get it."