Message in a film can

Feb 8, 2005

Movies entertain, enlighten and inspire us. And sometimes they show us truths we dare not ignore. Two more filmmakers will be in Flint this weekend to share their vision and elaborate on the message in their film.

Walking their talk, film producer Barry Silverthorn and director Greg Greene have both reduced their petroleum consumption, one by using a Smart Car and train to commute to work and the other by living in the city where he works.

"Scaling down hasn't been uncomfortable," said Silverthorn of his Smart Car, "one of the benefits is that a lot of people smile and wave at you because you're driving an unusual vehicle, which makes you feel good."

Weather permitting, he and Greene will drive the Smart Car, that won over Europeans with its cute looks and very high mileage, to the Flint screening of their movie "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream," Saturday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. "It doesn't handle well in the snow and ice, but for me that is just one example of the compromises we'll have to make in using less fuel to get around," said Silverthorn. The 60-mpg, two-seat coupes, made by a European company called smart, are sold in Canada but not in the United States.

The film is part of the Global Issues Film Festival co-sponsored by Kettering and Mott Community College. "The End of Suburbia" is part of the second weekend of films dealing with human rights, animal rights and cultural and religious issues world wide. A full schedule for the weekend is listed below.

Silverthorn got involved in filmmaking because he wanted to be involved in editing a documentary that questioned the official story of 9/11. "The more reading I did about the subject, the more I came across the issue of "oil peak" - the point at which we will extract the most oil out of the planet before we go into decline," said Silverthorn. "It became clear to me that the news stories that might be considered to be the stories of the decade - Afghanistan, Iraq, Enron, the economy, even 9/11 - were more or less symptoms of a bigger issue, Peak Oil."

After listening to an interview with James Howard Kunstler on about how the energy crisis might affect the suburban living arrangement, Silverthorn saw an opportunity to bring this story to a larger audience. "It had great visual potential, and since about half of us live in a suburban environment, this was a story that most people could relate to," he said.

Although "the End of Suburbia" was his first, and likely his last film, Silverthorn said he is tempted to produce a documentary about internment camps in North America. "Is there really a camp in Alaska that can house two million people? Why would the government need that?"

Greene, however, is working on a sequel to the movie called "Escape from Suburbia," looking at sustainable, alternative living arrangements and people who are making the move to get out of the suburbs.

Right now they are trying to find a US broadcaster, and if nothing comes up they will design their own program to get it out through community access channels, Silverthorn said. "In the beginning we were fairly optimistic PBS would be an outlet for us," he said. "But I think PBS has aired some controversial programming about the war in Iraq in the past and there's been some negativity around that. And since our documentary implies that the war has a lot to do with oil, it could be viewed as too controversial."

Currently commuting 80 miles into Toronto two or three times a week, Silverthorn is planning a career change in the fall of this year. "I'm interested in re-learning my gardening skills, and possibly taking up beekeeping. Whatever I do, I plan to do it closer to home," he said.

Global and human rights issues are the focus of the annual Global Issues film festival co-hosted by Kettering and Mott Community College (MCC). This year's festival has expanded from showing Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival films to include independent films focusing on a broad range of issues including beauty as politics, Palestinian/Israeli relations, outsourcing of jobs and the culture of consumerism.

All films are free and open to the public.

The festival again spanned two weekends presenting a total of 10 films. During the second weekend - Feb.11 and 12, - five films will be shown in the Regional Technology Center at MCC, off Robert T. Longway Boulevard in Flint.

The schedule for the second weekend includes:

Feb. 11, 2005, 7 p.m.
Surplus: Terrorized Into Becoming Consumers
(2003, Sweden, 52 minutes)
Produced and directed by Erik Gandini
Utilizing an MTV style to film this documentary, Gandini asks if consumerism has brought us happiness. He explores attitudes towards consumerism in the U.S., India, Cuba, China, Italy, Sweden, Hungary and Canada. His cinematic style, from an emotional rather than factual perspective, offers a view designed to provoke discussion of our motivations as consumers.

This film won first prize at the 2003 IDFA Amsterdam Silver Wolf Competition, the award for best sound and music at the 2004 One World Documentary Film Festival (Prague), first prize at the 2004 FICA International Festival of Environmental Film (Brazil) and an honorary mention at the docAviv 2004.

Feb. 11, 2005, 8 p.m.
Diverted to Delhi
(2002, Australia, 55 minutes)
Written, produced and directed by Greg Stitt
Where have all the call center jobs gone? They've been diverted to Delhi. This documentary follows Indian college graduates as they learn to put aside their cultural identity, modify their accents and change their names so they can interactwith theirwesterncustomers. In a state with large job losses, this documentary explores one aspect of out-sourcing and off-shoring of jobs. It also looks at the phenomenon from the Indian viewpoint where 30% of college graduates cannot find work. Issues of globalization, outsourcing to developing nations and the cultural impact the jobs have on the employees are part and parcel of the call centers. The film has been viewed at the Commonwealth Film Festival, world Social Forum and SE Asia Film Festival.

Feb. 12, 2005, 1p.m.
Beauty Will Save the World
(2003, New Zealand, 62 minutes)
Directed by Pietra Brettkelly
It started as an idea to hold the first Miss Net World beauty pageant. Then Axis of Evil leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi agreed to host the pageant in Libya. BEAUTY WILL SAVE THE WORLD follows 19-year-old Teca Zendik, the American contender for the crown. She sets out with her political loyalties in check, even refusing to wear the competition uniform: a t-shirt emblazoned with Gaddafi's likeness. She returns, however, as Honorary Consul to the U.S.for Libya, with a Libyan citizenship to boot.

Feb. 12, 2005, 3 p.m.
(2004, USA, 62 minutes)
Produced and directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
Documentarians Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman had just lived through the "energy crisis" in California when they started hearing talk of privatization of water. Is there a new economy of water? Is water part of a shared "common", a human right for all people? Or is it a commodity to be bought, sold and traded in a global marketplace? "Thirst" tells the story of communities in Bolivia, India and the United States that are asking these fundamental questions. "Thirst", utilizing a variety of cuts to meetings and interviews along with historical and present-day footage in communities in these three countries, explores the issue of water as a commodity. What could be timelier as the Canadian and American government talk about the future of the water flowing in the Great Lakes? This film has won awards at Hot Docs, the Seattle International Film Festival, the Amnesty International Film Festival and the United Nations Association Film Festival.

Feb. 12, 2005, 7 p.m.
The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream
(2004, USA, 78 minutes)
Directed by Gregory Greene. Produced by Barry Silverthorn.


Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream. But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American way of life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today's suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?Director Greene and Producer Silverthorn will be at the screening to talk about their work and answer questions.

Written by Dawn Hibbard
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