Ten Square Miles

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Category: A Fierce Green Fire

A Fierce Green Fire

A Fierce Green Fire, directed by Mark Kitchell, and produced by Zoetrope Aubry Productions in 2012, is a documentary that takes a look at the history of the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the world. The film is split us into five acts, each narrated by a different person including Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Ashley Judd. Each act is an explorations of different facets of the environmental movement. They are conservation, pollution, alternative energies, issues in other countries, and climate change.

This film is an educational film. While watching it, I was reminded of the documentaries that I would watch in high school and there would be a worksheet to follow. This format seems to be what people imagine when they hear the word documentary. There are narrators, talking heads, and archival footage. The only original footage from the filmmaker, it seemed, was the talking heads sequences. All the other visuals that the viewer gets are archival footage. The entire film was different from anything that we have watched in the class so far. As of now we have seen documentaries exploring a single issue concerning the state of our environment whether it is fracking, dams, or global warming. This film gives the viewer an all encompassing perspective on the environmental movement in a different context than we are used to seeing. We usually look at from the side of what the issues are, and this is what’s in store for us in the future if we do not act. This film takes place on the other side. We see what has already been done with these critical issues and the movements that have taken place in our history. It is easy for some people to think that the environmental movement is new and maybe even a phase or a fad. This film exposes us to the truth which is that people have been recognizing these problems for decades, have been angry about it, and have done something about it. For example, the film focuses for a time on Love Canal, a neighborhood in upstate New York that was found to be sitting on 22,000 tons of buried toxic waste from the Hooker Chemical Company. This was causing numerous birth defects, miscarriages, and illnesses within the neighborhood. Lois Gibbs, a member of the Homeowner’s Association there decided that this was unacceptable and began a movement for federally funded relocation. She rallied the community and it made national news. She succeeded in getting the funding and this is only one example in the film of grassroots movements and demonstrations. One weakness I found with the film was that it seemed to be too much information packed into one film that was not effectively strung together. If Kitchell is going to split the film into five acts, he might as well turn the film into a miniseries in order to explore each act more in depth and get more perspectives and individual stories.

I really enjoyed this film and it was nice to watch a different type of film than we have been watching. Seeing the small things that people have started and watching them grow into something moving and powerful was incredible to watch. It also did a good job of reminding me that we are not of the woods yet when it comes to saving the planet. All the people in the documentary had their small victories and even some big victories, but there are still things to be done in 2015 and hopefully keeping the momentum that’s been here for decades going then small victories will eventually lead up to some more big victories.

A Fierce Green Fire Response

Mark Kitchell produced and directed the 2012 documentary, A Fierce Green Fire that explores different environmental movements and groups around the world. Produced by Bull Frog Films, the film takes a look at different movements regarding the environment within the past 50 years all over the world. It is split up into five different acts, each of which progress in a somewhat chronological order. Kitchell takes the first act to look act the organization of the Sierra club and its early battle in the 60’s with dams and the Grand Canyon. Act 2 focuses on pollution and the 70’s era of Love Canal where a town in New York is overcome with over 20,000 toxic chemicals as its residents try and find resolution with the government. Act 3 is about the environmental organization Greenpeace and their fight to save the whales while Act 4 follows with deforestation in the 80’s and activist Chico Mendez. Act 5 finishes the film by looking at climate change and natural disasters. Overall, the film created a brief history of environmentalism and its’ activists.

This film in particular had a very positive outlook at environmental activism. The upbeat music and ambitious montages were meant to serve the film as inspiring. A particular strength of this documentary was the fact that it was split up into five different acts. The film was nicely strung together with each act and without the separation, would have just looked poorly organized. The diversity of each act worked in the film’s favor because the audience had the chance to see different types of activism in different eras. Ultimately A Fierce Green Fire is meant to observe the activist history in environmentalism and throughout the acts, it achieved that. The first three acts proved to be particularly strong with movements like Love Canal, which viewed one of the bigger environmental issues of the 70’s and groups like Greenpeace which shed light on issues like whaling and sealing that are not commonly known to the public. The last two acts weren’t as strong as they created more distant issues that didn’t prove quite as strong as the other acts but important nonetheless.

Kitchell and his crew stay behind the camera and leave it to the subjects to tell their stories. This is very much unlike the documentary DamNation we watched as a class earlier in the year that used a series of voiceovers from the documentarians themselves as they went on an adventure to advocate the destruction of Dams. Likewise, in class we read Rachel Carson’s text Silent Spring and in Act 2 the film relates back to Carson’s text numerous times. Kitchell seems to have a stronger act when he has more of a solid, focused foundation.

Personally, this was my favorite film we have watched thus far. I thought many of the issues were strong and focused on the importance of activism. I liked how part of the underlying message of the film was that activism has been going on for decades and the need to advocate isn’t going to go away any time soon. I find that this film was so incredibly different than many of the other films we have watched. This film wasn’t one that made me feel badly about issues I may not have any control over and it also didn’t involve a resolution. But it did show the effects of activism and how people are reacting to environmentalism around the globe and I find that this approach was far more successful in capturing my interest and ambition than the others. I thought it was a very realistic, upbeat approach to activism and its history.

A Fierce Green Fire

A Fierce Green Fire Review

By Haley Brennan

A Fierce Green Fire is a documentary film produced, directed and co- written by Mark Kitchell. Additional crew members include Marc N. Weiss, Ken Schnieder, Veronica Selver, Gary Weimberg, Jon Beckhardt and Vincente Franco. This film’s distributor is First Run Features. The film is broken up into five acts, each with a different narrator. The first act, narrated by Robert Redford, centers around David Brower and the Sierra Club’s fight to stop dams in the Grand Canyon. The second act, narrated by Ashley Judd, tells the story of Lois Gibbs, a homeowner in Love Canal, and her struggle, along with her fellow residents, to gain government protection against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals. The third act, narrated by Van Jones, highlights Paul Watson and Greenpeace’s attempts to save whales and baby harp seals. The fourth act, narrated by Isabel Allende, discusses Chico Mendes and Brazilian rubbertrapper’s struggle to save the Amazon rainforest. Finally, the fifth act, narrated by Meryl Streep, talks about Bill McKibben and his 25 year long fight to get the world to address climate change. This film is an expository film, because it is classic documentary style. It employs the use of interviews, footage and narration by celebrity guests, and has a very educational feel.
I believe the thesis of this film is the fight to stop climate change has been around for a long time, and it is up to us to continue this fight- we haven’t lost yet. Climate change is not a myth, and people who believe it is need to wake up. I believe breaking up the film into five acts was extremely smart of the filmmaker to do. This film is showing environmental struggles throughout the decades, and there is a massive amount of information in the film, Breaking the film up into acts lets the viewer focus on one message or fight at a time. This film is extremely relevant historically, because apart from the interviews, all of the footage is found footage. The footage makes the film authentic and accurate. This film also brought up knowledge we had gained from reading Rachel Carson’s A Silent Spring. It was interesting to see how her and her campaign to stop the spread of pesticides fit into the history of environmental fights. This film had many strengths, such as the found footage, the music and the old commercials that tied into the film’s theme. The found footage, commercials and music all pushed the idea that this is real, there is no denying it. This is our history just as much as the civil rights movement or gay rights activism. The only weaknesses I could find with the film are that it doesn’t show the other sides to the issues. However, climate change is real, and people who believe global warming is a myth don’t necessarily belong in an activist film.
I really enjoyed this film, I felt it completely belonged in an environmental activism class. I think the structure made it easy to follow, while still presenting people with difficult and challenging information. It was interesting to see how all the environmental fights we have heard about fit into our history. The act I enjoyed the most was Act 2, which was about Lois Gibb’s and her fight at Love Canal. I enjoyed this because in addition to her fighting for the environment, I believe this was unknowingly a feminist movement. These women, “housewives” as politicians called them, were doing their own research and standing up for what they knew to be true. They took the planet’s safety and their children’s safety into their own hands, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. They didn’t stop until they had the White House’s promise that they would be protected from the harmful chemicals at Love Canal. If there are more people willing to fight as hard as Lois, the planet can stop its downward spiral.

Watch the Trailer Here:

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