After the opening credits the opening of Trashed shows the Earth from outer space. From up here it looks pristine and clean, the celebrity narrator Jeremy Irons intones. Then come countless shots of how the land and sea really look up close. Trashed is an important documentary about the pollution, toxic waste and trash that is unceremoniously dumped on a daily basis, and how it affects all living organisms on the planet.
The production is slick, talking heads are well lit and composed and Vangelis composed the soundtrack. Sure, values like that make the film a pleasure to watch but there’s also the fact that what we’re watching makes us (the royal we, the collective audience) culpable of the out-of-control polluted landfills, deadly trash heaps, and measurable traces of pharmaceuticals and plastic in sea creatures. Obviously people seeking out movies like Trashed are doing their proper share of recycling and are not the ones dumping toxic, and in some cases radioactive waste material into the environment. There’s just so much that is wrong with the current state of affairs, bureaucratic and corporate, that a film like Trashed makes you want to do something positive for the current condition of the planet (if not yell at the sky).
And perhaps the first step for many will be to watch and embrace Trash (and similar docs) and raise awareness about the reality of incinerators, landfills, halogenated dioxins and their chemical ilk. Trashed is available via online streaming, and a series of theatrical engagements are listed on its website.
Also echoing an Earth Day vibe is the direct-to-disc (Blu-ray, digital and on demand) release of Disney’s Wings of Life. This nature doc features high tech lenses that can get right in an insect’s face, hummingbirds, bats and bees galore and is narrated by Meryl Streep.
Also available online (free in this case) is the film Euphonia. I caught up with Euphonia at SXSW and while admittedly this avant-garde exploration of sound won’t be for everybody’s taste, it does offer some cool imagery to accompany the soundtrack, and runs an economically succinct 53-minutes.
Werner Herzog has never found a remote portion of the planet (usually a place with no roads and that must be traveled to by air) that he can’t get to with a camera and his poetic narration. Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (Music Box Films, 4/23) is Herzog’s latest anthropological doc (co-directed with Dmitry Vasyukov).
At this snow bound area in Siberia Herzog finds a culture living by 19th century standards as far the way they hunt and survive. Yet they still have the skills to make world-class skis, and motorized snowmobiles to transverse the land. One particularly gripping sequence shows one of the natives traveling around 150-miles by snowmobile while his faithful dog runs alongside the entire way. Happy People is at once compelling and inspiring.
Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film (Kino Lorber, 3/12) chronicles the pioneers of true experimental films: films that the creators in some cases made by scratching on the negative or letting mold form on same. Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage, and many others are seen in interviews and archival clips. In particular the best parts are actual shorts films illustrating the film’s content in their entirety.
- Michael Bergeron