There’s nothing like the big screen to bring home the message of green, namely that our home is in peril. Or, as Michael Ruppert forecasts in Collapse (2009), on the brink of total ruin.
Then again, even the small screen can make a dent with viewers if the message is as compelling as the gruesome one in the extraordinary documentary, The Cove. All eyes were on activist Ric O’ Barry as he strapped a monitor on his chest and barged into an IWC convention playing horrific footage of the dolphin slaughter in Japan. Shocking stuff, yes. That’s ecotainment!
Screen and green go together like popcorn and Junior Mints, and that is why several films in the running for the most coveted prize in Hollywood appeal to our sense of survival as a species – one that sprang from a simple and pure beginning before industrialization began eroding what we treasure the most.
Take Avatar, James Cameron’s 3D odyssey which is among 10 best picture nominees vying for Oscar at the March 7 Academy Awards. It follows the saga of a vicious military machine from an ecologically-destroyed earth setting its sights on the distant planet, Pandora, which possesses a desirable mineral that can provide an alternative energy source. The story mirrors the shameful Native American experience of decimation by conquering imperialists with 10 times the modern weaponry of bows and arrows, thirsty for land acquisition at any human cost. How many times have we seen the same plot relived on the global stage?
The astounding production shot by Cameron with virtual cameras was so far-reaching, it even moved Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem to dress up like the fictional blue Na’vi aliens to combat Israel’s separation barrier. No matter where you stand politically, this film resonates with the historic experience of the displacement of indigenous populations.
Among the other environmental message films getting the nod at the 82nd annual Academy Awards:
Up, an Disney Pixar animated adventure that takes off when a 78-year-old balloon salesman and a chubby 8-year-old boyscout ride a balloon-powered bucket to the South American jungle, navigated with the tools of little Russell’s “Wilderness Explore GPS” and the old man’s good common sense. They end up outwitting the villain who is trying to harm a flightless mother bird the boy names Kevin, and in the end they return the bird to her chicks and save the species from extinction.
Two eco exposes, Food Inc. and The Cove, are up for best documentary. Both are raw, daring endeavors on the part of the film makers who went to great lengths to reveal foul cover-ups in food production.
Food, Inc., the product of a growing food justice movement in the United States, explains why we are “hungry for change.” It is considered one of the most talked about films of the year, a painful chronicle of the inhumane agriculture industry and a strong case for sustainable, ethically raised beef and farm food versus ignorance and greed.
The Cove reminds us that in “the Greek era it was punishable by death to kill a dolphin,” and begs the question, “What is going on here?” Here, is Taiji, Japan, where an annual bloodbath involving the spear hacking of 23,000 adult dolphins and their young is covered up by a government protecting the fishing industry and the $150,000 made on “show dolphins.” Fishermen trapping and killing schools of dolphins are told they are eradicating “pests” who are eating up the fish supply. Meantime, the Japanese public is duped into believing the mercury-laced protein is actually “safe” whale meat.
In seeking to inform the public about these appalling realities (most Japanese consumers don’t even know about the dolphin slaughter), the makers of The Cove tell us, “By destroying anything in nature we are taking away from ourselves, and we are losing it all at a horrifying rate.”
Will Oscar-winning films slow down that rate? At least, they probe deeper than the usual screen fodder – gratuitous sex and violence – by opening our eyes to our own culpability in allowing downer meat, dolphin murder, deforestation and displacement of indigenous peoples. Sometimes the subject matter is so engrossing, you are motivated to take action once the screen goes dark by writing a letter to your senator, the USDA or Prime Minster of Japan.
My own 10-year-old ran to her room after viewing The Cove and made a poster saying, “Save the dolphins, we want blue water, not red!” It gives a whole new meaning to the term moving pictures.