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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

An environmental thread at #CamFF 2014 : Energized and (still to come) Last Call

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

22 July

There is synergy (no pun intended !) between Last Call (2013) and Energized (2014), which is why they should be being reviewed together. (That said, a clash of programme at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (#CamFF)* meant that only the last part of Energized could be seen – and the review of Last Call has been ‘forever’ finishing itself, so it will continue to linger, and we hope that it may follow…)

The latter seems more focused, because its sections, although in some ways discrete, bleed into each other – in a short space of time, we get a good sense of the energy-independency of Murnau, in Austria, with examples, facts and statistics concisely given, and then move on (via narration and then a caption) to a related topic. This is the style of the film, which means that it can cover much ground by linking segments in this way.

Who benefits from large-scale solar arrays, the possible merits of a super-grid for power distribution, and the competing claims about power loss when conveying electricity over vast distances were all presented – quite apart from France’s near-total reliance on nuclear as a source of energy, and the concerns about the integrity of how its nuclear waste is kept (nothing to do with the risk of terrorists gaining access, but the relatively poorly understood systems of storage that were apparently used in the early years (as mentioned in the review of Containment (2015) at Sheffield Doc/Fest (@sheffdocfest)), but which no one, except the campaigner shown (who installed them), seems to want to acknowledge and revisit) – the film is a compendium of issues that affect the choices that nations make for the future of Earth’s resources.

Yet one simple example hits home very hard, that of a farmer growing sunflowers on one-tenth of his farmland. He told us that harvesting crops (one assumes that he meant the whole process of planting seeds, spraying, harvesting, tilling and levelling) uses 23% of the world’s consumption of fuel. However, he has converted his machinery to be powered by the sunflower oil that he produces (and in a way that satisfied his wife that he was not ruining the machinery) : the oil not only provides fuel for his farm, but gives him the means to plant and harvest future sunflowers.

By contrast, Last Call (2013) takes a longer view, because its ambit is from when the study The Limits to Growth was published (in 1972 – we see footage of the hopeful launch), how it came to be written, and what has happened since. It suffers – not inevitably – on this account, because, at times, its focus seems to be on where its authors were twenty years on, a subtle shift from how the study itself is being viewed at that remove (although, for those still alive and campaigning, there is common ground).

More to come...


* Watching Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) (1930), with interpretative commentary from Neil Brand and Jeff Davenport, meant that one was elsewhere at Energized's start-time of 5.00 p.m.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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