Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Impact Man Comments

Comment below if you've seen the movie. Let us know what you thought!

ETA: Come to my house, Tues. Dec. 22, 8:30, to see the movie!

I just got home from our premiere showing....

First of all, ON THE EXPERIENCE of hosting an international film premiere: We wanted to make the event as low-impact as possible. We bought cloth hankies to sell instead of using paper napkins. We got non-waxed, 100% post-consumer waste, recyclable paper bags to fill with popcorn. And we sold Jones Soda which uses real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup which is in almost every other kind of "juice drink" and pop.

I expected to get the movie last week sometime, and I started e-mailing nervous notes to the organizers every night since Friday. Last night they e-mailed to say they FedExed me another copy of the movie to my home. That was great, except the film was supposed to come with extra copies and books we could sell to re-coup the cost of the film. No great loss. Today I got home to find a FexEx note on my doorknob, but instead of the usual "you weren't home, come pick it up at the nearest post office" kind of note, it said they'd come back to try delivering it again the NEXT DAY!

People were coming at 7:00 to see this movie, about three hours from then, and I really hate to disappoint. I called FedEx a bit flustered, and they said I could pick my package up from their main office after Cambridge. Did I mention I don't have a car? Google maps says it would be about a four hour walk. So I had to compromise the low-impact thing by getting a cab to get the movie to me. It finally arrived at 6:45.

ETA:  I just got the package I was supposed to receive December 16th - I'm writing this on December 31st.  I'm glad I didn't wait for the package to show the movie. Go U.S. postal service!

While we were waiting for the film and patrons to arrive, we got the popcorn ready. We didn't want to use microwavable popcorn because it's highly toxic. It's pretty much like scraping the teflon off a pan and eating it with melted butter and salt. See this video if you need more convincing. We typically eat Smart Popcorn, which is crap, but not toxic crap, so I haven't popped popcorn since I was a kid. I was pretty sure I still had the skills necessary for the job.

I was wrong. I shook that pot until I was hot and sweaty and nothing popped. I had to pass the job on and take a break. I remember that rush when it finally starts popping, but I didn't remember that it takes a good twenty minutes. We got out our bags to start filling and ended up with one bag worth of popcorn and lots of unpopped kernels. I know there's a technique to it, but we didn't have time for me to figure it out. So our low impact hopes took another hit as I ran to the store for big bags of chips to re-bag and sell. The grease from the chips immediately soaked into the paper bags, but the effect wasn't overly disturbing.

The Facebook Event page said we could expect thirty confirmed guests and 105 maybes (which are really just people too polite to say no). Well, about half of the confirmed were unavailable for the evening after all. We made enough money to pay for the film's cab fare and about a quarter of the cost of viewing rights. Damn independent films! I don't think I'll be hosting another film anytime soon.

ON THE FILM - **spoilers galore**: I love this movie. I think I'll try to host another viewing in my living room over the holidays and maybe get my OneEarth club to watch it after school one day since only one person from the club could actually make it out tonight. We really should have shown it last week in the library instead of waiting for the one night we could get the auditorium. But then there's no way we would have had the film by last week!

Colin and Michelle are a very real couple, but also very reasonable people. The film didn't just show the crazy stuff they were willing to do, it got to the heart of and tried to understand many issues to do with activism in general:

* Colin was seen as an extremist hurting the cause - a loony fanatic. He was slammed by environmentalists for making them look bad. Instead of showing how easy it is to be environmental, he was shoving a bigger reality in their face - that we're consumer junkies hooked on crap, and we'll do anything to avoid seeing that for what it is. People will fight to maintain this addiction. Be warned.

* Michelle was obviously really hurt by how much people hated them for this experiment. "Why do they hate us so much?" she asked several times. There are few social rewards for doing what's right. Anytime someone acts with integrity, goes an extra mile, it makes the rest of us look bad. They're deviants for refusing to fit in with the status quo. We have to hate them to maintain balance in the system we're all sucked into to relieve ourselves of cognitive dissonance. Either that or we have to change our lives. Hmmm...

* Michelle, we find out near the end, writes for a business magazine supporting all the capitalist consumerism that got into this mess in the first place. When confronted with this irony, Colin is forced to look at his efforts on a larger scale than just cutting back personal consumption.

*The grief that Michelle expresses for losing her wants, that she missed that part of herself, is an important part of the transition to be seen. Even when we're improving, any change is hard, and it leaves behind something we'll miss even if we hated it when it was part of us. But after she struggled for months with the project, the best part was watching Colin hit a wall, and Michelle laugh out loud. I felt so badly for her at the beginning because Colin's disdain was palpable.

* Michelle's epiphany at the farm is a whole other post.

* Beyond the environment, their relationship was lovely to watch. I never showed my students the film Garbage after I bought it for just that purpose because I couldn't stand the bickering between the couple. These two don't bicker; they discuss intelligently. That's rare to see on the big screen. But in Michelle's quest for a baby, when Colin finally gets that she needs her desires supported too, I was surprised that he didn't once mention the environmental impact of having kids. Maybe that would have been hitting below the belt, but most environmentalists see the population explosion as the number one problem. This raises the conundrum many couples face at one time or another: what do you do when your dreams are oppositional? I don't think it was just that he was so into his project he forgot to pay attention to his wife's project - and I love how she convinced him to get rid of the pots - that makes "I'm willing to discuss it" as far as he would go for some time, but that her goal of a second child is antithetical to his goal of being no impact. Then what do you do?

I'm still working on convincing my guy to turn off the power bar to the computer so all the little red lights go out at night. Baby steps.

After the film, we had a short discussion. Students commented mainly on the missing steps in Colin's plan. The first comments were about wanting to see them make it through winter without electricity. They stopped the project in November, and Michelle seemed to spend most of her time under a comforter. Colin shunned electricity and fossil fuels, but wait, didn't he use the stove? Some were concerned with breathing in all the candle smoke. I'm pretty sure they were beeswax which isn't a problem in that sense, BUT what about all those matches? Ah HA! And they have a dog nobody mentions. Is it a vegetarian dog? And what did they do with the dog poop? Did it end up with the worms? Is that why they got flies? And how come nobody ever mentioned hot water? I think they had some!! They were showering, the buggers! Colin and Michelle weren't extreme enough for this crowd.

I was particularly impressed that they changed to cloth diapers with a toddler. First of all, it's hugely impressive to me that they did this with a kid mainly because all my excuses hinge on my children. "If I didn't have kids, I wouldn't have any garbage." That sort of thing. And I had all my kids in cloth diapers but since birth. I never knew any differently. To be used to disposables then switch takes this commitment to a whole other level. Most people were struck by the lack of toilet paper, but much of the world does without just fine - some use a cloth, and a good 30 or 40% of the world use their hand.

Colin's message at the end hit me. He posited what to do if you can only do one thing for the environment. I was guessing in my head, "eat less meat." And I was so engrossed in my obvious rightness, I barely heard him say, "Volunteer with a local environmental group." Nothing will happen until we re-engage with community. Hence, a neighbourhood viewing is a must! Pass it on.

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