Monday, December 13, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
An interesting episode in the life of Josh Fox
Josh Fox, US documentary-maker and current mouthpiece of the anti-natural gas drilling movement, has been on what he calls “an exhausting and comprehensive” tour with his film, GasLand. Launching screenings with local grassroot organisations across America and then travelling to Australia for Q&As in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, Fox’s role is one firmly stuck between filmmaker and activist. Tired but still obviously spurred on by the environmental damage he’s seen and the threat to his own home, Fox is determined to continue spreading the message of the film.
GasLand is part exposé, part personal travelogue. The project began when Fox received a letter from a gas company offering $100,000 to lease part of his family’s upstate New York estate for exploration. Instead of signing on the bottom line like many of his neighbours Fox- a theatre director and part-time banjo player- decided to investigate the natural gas industry. “I was in the middle of a raging debate in my area between people who wanted this development and people who didn’t, and I just wanted to find out who was right.”
At the outset of his journey Fox was oblivious to the extend of the damage that hydraulic fracturing (a process for drilling for gas) was causing across America. It was a trip to the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania (shown in the film) that spurred Fox on to action. Interviews with residents there revealed flammable drinking water polluted by chemicals involved in the drilling process and massive health problems caused by toxic emissions. Fox felt terrified.
“I came home [after visiting Dimock] and I couldn’t sleep for a month, I still can’t sleep sometimes when I think about it, because I feel the walls closing in and I feel like I might have to leave.” Indeed, Fox's greatest fear is that he may not ultimately be able to halt the drilling process. “Here I am down in the valley, a lot of the property up on the hill, to the north side is leased. My immediate neighbours to my left and to my right are not leased, but what if they sell their house and the next person leases? … Even if they just drill the properties up on the hill, all those toxic emissions, and I know what they are, are going to waft down and collect in the valley.”
Watching GasLand it is hard not to feel outraged and angry. The film shows how gas companies in the US have been allowed to by-pass environmental laws. But despite all of his alarming and depressing findings you never see Fox angry in the film, which is surprising. “I think I am in shock myself a little bit about that, I think I am really deeply angry, I don’t think that is the way to express it though.” Fox pauses before continuing “Here is the thing, I think you have to leave space for your audience to make up their own mind… GasLand is a series of questions, put forward from a reasonable perspective, and it is in the audience’s hands to figure out what they need to do or what they think. You’ve got to come charging in at the end of the movie, not me, I’m already charging.”
Converting audience outrage into action isn’t easily done, but this filmmakers isn’t shy about pointing the way. “I think people have to be in the streets protesting about this, in the major cities. I think you have to have, at the locations, civil disobedience. The popular opinion has to turn and say ‘no, we are citizens of this country and we really want to examine this before industry comes in and decides to buys out our continent and our government’. At the beginning of the process I was really interested in preserving my land and my house, now the most important objective to me is to move the Earth towards renewable energy. Its about all of us investing in the great change that is to come, which is to get off fossil fuels. And natural gas is dirty just like fossil fuels.”
Becoming the mouthpiece of a cause certainly doesn’t come without its problems, but Fox with his wry sense of humour, seems to be coping. “The film has put the human face on this issue, on gas drilling…For me it is a really interesting rollercoaster. Isn’t this an interesting episode in the life of Josh Fox, I wonder what will happen next?”
First published in The Brag 15/11/10
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Jack (Clooney) is a hitman/gunsmith who begins the film in Sweden, where he commits as act of violence that will haunt him throughout the rest of the film. Escaping to Italy he hides out in a small countryside town and takes on a new assignment for a mysterious client (Thekla Teuten, In Bruges). The town's elderly priest (Paolo Bonacelli) quickly sizes Jack up as someone whose soul is in torment, and tries to befriend him, but Jack is a little more interested in getting to know Clara (Violente Placido), a beautiful and vivacious prostitute. However the quaint old town is full of dark, cobbled, maze-like alleyways and Jack, who is unable to escape his past, is constantly on guard for enemies lurking in the shadows.
Clooney, rightly or wrongly, is associated with characters that are charismatic and amiable. Jack, on the other hand, is solemn and cold; too hard a character to care about, not because of his immoral choices but because we find out so little about him during the course of the film.
The American suffers from being too earnest and relying on a heavy amount of visual symbolism, struggling to find a suitable way to express the film's message without banging the audience over the head with it. Corbijn's lack of subtlety as a filmmaker means that when he does make smart choices he is unable to do so without pointing it out to his audience, spoiling the magic somewhat. Corbijn coming from the world of photography and music videos certainly knows how to make a visually engaging film, but he hasn't quite learned how to tell a good story yet.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
When the female machinists at American car giant Ford’s UK manufacturing plants are reclassified as unskilled labour and are moved to a lower pay salary, the employees at the factory in Dagenham, a borough in Greater London, move for industrial action. Lead by shy, but passionate worker Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) the women stage the first ever female strike, scaring both Ford and the Unions. What follows is a stalemate which raises issues of gender and rights forcing the British Government to take notice.
The competition between domestic duties and principles pull the women in differing directions giving some shade to the film’s overall light atmosphere. While Made in Dagenham’s message is loud and clear, the script’s witty dialogue and the cast’s performances stop it from being belligerent, or overly self-righteous.
Hawkins is fantastic as Rita, a woman who finds her voice fighting for sexual equality. There is a delightful cheekiness as well as stern determination to the character, which makes her a charming lead. Also brilliant is Miranda Richardson as Secretary for State Barbara Castle, whose role shows off another side to women in the workforce.
The film does overload the 60s clichés. Fashion and make-up are emphasised to the point that they are less setting and more proof that we are in the 60s- indeed we must be because there are hot-pants and massive beehives everywhere. But this is a small problem in what is overall a heart-warming and delightful film. The spirit of standing up and being counted is an important message that Made In Dagenham spreads by being entertaining rather than moralising.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Bob (Frank Silva) from Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Tim Curry) from It (1990)
Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Tim Curry) from It (1990)
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) from Psycho (1960)
You can read the full list at Trespass