The reinvented green film festival scales mountains and gets into weeds


Whether In the weeds is an anger movie, Luke Griswold-Tergis’ Pleistocene Park provokes a range of unexpected emotions. The veteran Russian geophysicist Sergei Zimov, assisted by his son Nikita, embarked on a wildly ambitious crusade to populate northern Siberia with herds of herbivores (reindeer, yaks, bison). Their premise is that millions of animals converting tundra to grassland will keep ground temperatures low and prevent permafrost from melting and releasing large amounts of methane and greenhouse gases.

Griswold-Tergis, who adds an awkward presence in his curious film, seeks to offset the frankly horrifying prospect of accelerating global warming with Sergey’s dogged iconoclasm (although his obsession never quite comes close to that of ‘a prototypical Werner Herzog hero) and Nikita’s grueling Sisyphus truck. expeditions over hundreds of difficult kilometers with barely a dozen animals.

Horses in ‘Pleistocene Park.’ (Courtesy of Green Film Festival San Francisco)

Longtime East Bay editor Maureen Gosling has her hands full to create a gripping narrative from the chaos of Zimov life, acres of stunning drone footage and demoralizing soul-level imagery. mud. At the end of the day, Pleistocene Park (in its California premiere) managed to distract us from the coming apocalypse, but oddly enough I didn’t come away inspired by the deeply devoted Zimovs. Their superhuman efforts are certainly admirable, but seem infinitesimal compared to the magnitude of the problem.

Marin filmmaker Nancy Svendsen Pasang: In the shadow of Everest tells a kind of simpler adventure story, but with a political rather than an environmental subtext. In the early 1990s, Nepalese housewife Pasang Lhamu Sherpa took up rock climbing. Fearless, aggressive and ambitious, Pasang took on star Western mountaineers, corporate sponsors and the Prime Minister. In the end, she became the first Nepalese woman to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest and paid a heavy price.

Svendsen has had exceptional access to family (one of Pasang’s brothers is her brother-in-law), but the filmmaker goes beyond mere hagiography. Three decades after that fateful trip up the mountain, the immediate consequences of Pasang’s ascent have been superseded by its example and inspiration for generations of Nepalese girls and women.

a chinese scientist in a white coat and green gloves uses a syringe in a laboratory
An image from “Make People Better,” a documentary by filmmaker Cody Sheehy that explores the ethics around gene editing. (Courtesy of Green Film Festival San Francisco)

Apart from fleeting references to UC Berkeley and Stanford University, Cody Sheehy’s Make people better has no explicit resonance in the Bay Area. But the documentary will be of interest to bioengineering and biotechnology workers in the region, despite the repeat, filler and credit sequences necessary to tease and stretch it into an 83-minute feature.

Its subject is the scientific and moral implications of the border-crossing actions in 2018 of Chinese biophysicist Dr. He Jiankui (alias JK), who edited the genomes of twin fetuses in an effort to increase their future resistance to HIV. That is, JK experimented on human beings, taking full responsibility, although he had an altruistic purpose and parental consent.

The ongoing debate about the application of science to human evolution, from science fiction to scientific journals, is undeniably important. Sheehy gives ample screen time to Arizona State University Professor Ben Hurlbut and MIT Technology Review journalist Antonio Regalado to address the issue of (to put it simplistically and crudely) custom babies, and JK comes via interviews he gave – before the Chinese government took him out of the public eye (which was almost literally the case).

Make people better heightens the paranoia and suspenseful aspects of JK’s disappearance, which will keep some viewers hooked thanks to the recap of previously provided information and opinions. Once you see through the smokescreen of eerie, over-edited cityscapes and computer screens, you’ll also notice the movie re-enactments and tricks used to create the illusion of scenes – i.e. action – designed to camouflage the cascade of guesswork, guesswork and science fog.

You will find the antidote in For the beesthe sunny shot of Chloe Fitzmaurice Khaled Almaghafi, beekeeper from Oakland. A soft-spoken 50-year-old Yemeni émigré sharing the lessons he learned from his hives (humility, generosity, hard work), Almaghafi is the personification — like the Zimovs, albeit with a vision far more modest of its place in the world — of “Think global, act local.” If San Francisco’s new Green Film Festival inspires mantras, this is it.

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