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Filming community conflict: Windfall and The Pipe at TIFF

Laura Israel's Windfall and Risteard Ό Domnhnaill's The Pipe both take on the hard challenge of chronicling community conflict. They are both compelling narratives, beautifully produced, elegantly structured, edited authoritatively, with unforgettable characters. They both present a persuasive and powerful point of view, without slighting hard realities.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, along with big-name documentary directors were two remarkable projects by first-time directors. They exemplified how to reveal community controversy from inside, with integrity.

Laura Israel's Windfall and Risteard Ό Domnhnaill's The Pipe both take on the hard challenge of chronicling community conflict. They are both compelling narratives, beautifully produced, elegantly structured, edited authoritatively, with unforgettable characters. They both present a persuasive and powerful point of view, without slighting hard realities.

Windfall recounts what happened when wind generating companies in her upstate New York town began to bargain with local farmers to install giant, 400-foot-high windmills. Initial enthusiasm by some in the collection of dairymen, organic farmers and weekend professionals soon led to dissension and then acrimony. Without federal regulation-and indeed against government support for poorly planned alternative energy investment-the townspeople are left to investigate complex issues on their own. Researchers, including the town planning commission, discover that the windmills not... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

At the Toronto International Film Festival, along with big-name documentary directors were two remarkable projects by first-time directors. They exemplified how to reveal community controversy from inside, with integrity.

Laura Israel's Windfall and Risteard Ό Domnhnaill's The Pipe both take on the hard challenge of chronicling community conflict. They are both compelling narratives, beautifully produced, elegantly structured, edited authoritatively, with unforgettable characters. They both present a persuasive and powerful point of view, without slighting hard realities.

Windfall recounts what happened when wind generating companies in her upstate New York town began to bargain with local farmers to install giant, 400-foot-high windmills. Initial enthusiasm by some in the collection of dairymen, organic farmers and weekend professionals soon led to dissension and then acrimony. Without federal regulation-and indeed against government support for poorly planned alternative energy investment-the townspeople are left to investigate complex issues on their own. Researchers, including the town planning commission, discover that the windmills not only make a constant and loud whop-whop sound but also create "shadow flicker," an irritating and unremitting shadow-show from the rotating blades. They find out that no one know how to put out fires at the top of a windmill, and that companies have no plans for fluid spills or for deconstruction of aged windmills. And then they learn that wind energy, always intermittent, lacks a distribution grid to get energy out of local areas, and that the only business model yet found depends on continuous and high-level taxpayer subsidy.

The Pipe tells, partly in Gaelic, the story of what happened when a Shell natural gas project blessed by the Irish government schedules a pipeline to rip through a rural Irish fishing and farming village, where the director lives. The townsfolk, spurned by their own government and rejected by Shell when they offer alternatives, begin civil disobedience, a move that begins to tear the town apart over a decade.

In both cases, victory comes with scars to community culture so deep that the principals cannot imagine healing. The cost of exercising democratic rights at the grassroots when government and regulators have been bought and corporations respond to nothing but the bottom line is prohibitively high. Windfall and The Pipe make, separately and together, a powerful case for pro-conservation energy policies and regulations to match. That way, local residents wouldn't be left alone on the front lines.

Neither film featured representatives from government or the offending energy companies. Israel noted that the energy companies largely worked in secret, signing locals to confidential agreements. Ό Domnhnaill, who had filmed the conflicts over the 10 years of struggle as a news cameraman,said, "I made the documentary because I had seen in covering the news that Shell could manipulate the media, burying these people's stories and portraying them as lunatics and anti-development. I wanted their voices to be heard." In any case, neither Shell nor the government would participate, since they had signed an agreement previous to the conflict. (Interestingly, the film was funded by the government-funded Irish Film Board. Ό Domnhnaill attributed some of the reason for the support to the Green Party, but noted that once in power, the Green Party did not come to the village's aid. He also praised the IRB's integrity.)

Fair and balanced? I think so. These are both stories propelled by the conflicts within the community. Both directors reside, some of the time, in these communities, and the effort to deal scrupulously with the different characters and to represent their points of view with respect is evident. The core balance in the story is asserted and maintained, as viewers are able to understand the different perspectives, how passionately they are held, and to see the consequences of conflict.

I hope these films get distributors, and prompt discussion about the need for national energy policies that work.


Source: http://www.centerforsocialm...

SEP 16 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/28147-filming-community-conflict-windfall-and-the-pipe-at-tiff
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