SBIFF, Poverty: Experiencing it, Helping it, What causes it

No great films today, but several good ones.

Occupy the Movie

The same people who did We Shall Not Be Moved have done a feature film on the movement. It covers a lot of territory, including the purpose of occupy.  Today was a demonstration of what a few committed people can accomplish.  This film was basically done by two Canadians.  There is archival footage and interviews, including appearances by Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, and Cornel West as well as several central figures from Occupy Wall Street.  The financial behavior that gave rise to the movement is clarified.  Other topics include the Black Bloc and the debate on tactics.

The makers of this film and the one below mentioned social media as crucial to their making of the film.  In the case of occupy, they watched what people were discussing and used that to choose what to include in the film.  They could also post clips on youtube and get feedback.  Both groups mentioned their facebook pages as well.


This was by far the most informative film of the day for me.  Greenpeace managed to bring together the CEO's of the big acoustic guitar manufacturers including Gibson, Martin, and Taylor in an attempt to convince Native Americans in Alaska to change to sustainable logging practices.  Traditional woods used to make guitars are in danger of extinction.  The only source of spruce for the guitar face comes from an area in the Alaskan panhandle controlled by the Native American corporation Sealaska.  Guitar makers need a tree at least 300 to 500 years old to get the size.  They only purchase about 1% of the wood, but their interest and willingness to meet with the stockholders helped bring some pressure to bear.

The scenes of vast acres with nothing but stumps are heartbreaking.  It looked as though progress was being made, but this was interrupted when the tribe suspended their investigation of sustainable practices to focus on a bill currently in congress which would grant them 80,000 more acres.  During the filming, everyone was shocked when the Martin company was raided--they have since admitted to importing rosewood illegally from Madagascar.  Similarly, the Native Americans seem more interested in maintaining good PR than agreeing to limit their profits, or so it seemed to me.  There is a sad native ceremony when they first cut a tree down, obviously without heart, staged.  After the ceremony, more clear cutting.  Meanwhile, very poor members of the tribe are given some voice in the film--they live off salmon and game, both of which are threatened by the destruction.  They say they are not seeing any of the profits from the logging.  Referring to the "first tree" ceremony, one of the dissident voices says, "The tree felling ceremony is supposed to be a prayer for the uses you intend to make of the wood.  What prayer do they make before cutting down all those trees?  We don't have a ceremony for killing the forest."
These film-makers do this out of commitment and love.  the link above contains some good info.  The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) will certify that wood is being grown with good practices.  The film-maker said that in Europe they always look for the FSC stamp when buying kleenexes, lumber, all wood products.  Beware, because there are other certifications created by the logging industry which are not reliable.  Look for the FSC stamp.  Another matter of interest that came up was a source of funding that film-makers sometimes use:  Kickstarter.  I think it can be used for any fund-raising effort.

If things continue at the current rate, there will be no more spruce for guitar faces in less than ten years.

High Plains Doctor:  Healing on the Tibetan Plateau

A Canadian doctor heads a team of medical personnel to spend one month running a clinic in Tibet.  Again we see the effect one person can have.  Dr. Isaac Sobol treats first nation peoples in Canada when he's not in Tibet.  In both places, he sees the effects of government policy forcing nomads into sedentary life. He has seen Yushu, the Tibetan city, turn in ten years from a basic place with no roads or cars and little that is not biodegradeable to a city with cars and a river clogged with plastic and other waste. The good-hearted and affable man mentions a book which I can't find--the title is something like Why Do Some People Get Sick and Others Don't--which proves the strong effects on health of being in control of one's vocation and of living in a community of culture.  The Tibetan culture is in danger of extinction.  Dr. Sobol is working to fill a gap in which people without money cannot receive healty care.  They had spent all of their $23,000 budget before the month had run out.  When I think of the numbers tossed around in Washington in comparison with what such a relatively modest amount can accomplish . . .
The film is much better than this trailer shows:

High Plains Doctor: Healing on the Tibetan Plateau (Trailer Version 1)


This fine fiction feature from France/Switzerland follows the daily lives of a ten-year-old boy and his mother, whom he calls sister.  The boy supports them by stealing from a ski resort.  There is no jet-setting between Singapore and London nor driving fancy cars in this non-American film which is actually about people living actual lives. We see the two walking alongside roads and cutting across fields, hanging out away from the vacationers under the machinery of the ski lift.  To me, this was a fascinating, disturbing, and touching film about poverty and too-young motherhood.  They don't know how to love with skill, but through it all, it is clear that these two care about each other even though neither can care well for the other.







I don't think I could bear

triv33's picture

to watch Musicwood. I had the feeling just looking a the description, but you've confirmed it.

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No no no

geomoo's picture

I made it way more negative that it is.  It is entirely watchable and does not focus on the destruction while the Martin fiasco is just a sideline.  It is very interesting and also hopeful.  I mean, at one point you see this narrow-minded stubborn executive of Sealaska start to open her mind.  It's incredible that they convinced Sealaska to even consider becoming certified and they are well along in the process.  I think I screwed up that review.

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