Saturday, November 23, 2013

Planet In Focus 2013 Film Review - Elemental

Kanpur India leather factory, a smokestack spews black smoke into the air inside the workers treat the  leather products as the camera focuses on the drainage pipes taking water out of as the plant always getting darker at every stage as it empties into open waterways in the street then into the River Ganges. The result, a thick layer of dark sludge floating on the top of the river where it meets the shore. Onto the scene walks Rajendra Singh a commissioner with the Ganges River Basin Authority sample are taken showing significant levels of acid, chromium and lead. Singh concludes unless something is done Mother Ganges the source of 60% of the countries drinking supply will be killed.

Eriel Deranger boards a small plane headed home while her talk at a recent conference is recounted. She is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan Band working for the Rainforset Action Network in Edmonton Alberta targeting the development of the Northern Alberta tar sands. Its extraction zone is bigger that Wales and England combined and it takes 4 tonnes of dirt to produce 1 barrel of oil. A mixture of highly toxic chemicals is required to extract the oil.  As Eriel gives her talk the screen is filled with images of the process as Eriel flies overhead. The excavation areas, the multiple buildings,  smokestacks, the mixing process and to mirror the plight of the Ganges drain pipes shooting black water into the local waterways.

Next onto a conference in Hong Kong, China where we meet Inventor Jay Harman a nature enthusiast from an early age. He developed a keen scene on how nature worked and natural elements moved especially spiraling swirling patterns. There are elements of swirling water movement in everything in nature.  At the beach its seashells, in humans its the heart muscles, arteries and inner ear. It's what nurture uses to make thing work and to minimize energies. Harman created a Vortex ring based on this and uses it to create industrial items that are quieter, use less energy and requires significantly less chemical to maintain purity levels.

Directors Gayatri Roshan and Emmanuel Vaughn Lee chose three Echo- Crusaders from different regions of the Commonwealth to be the subjects of their film. The story follows the three as they try to bring change to today's environmental reality. Rajendra Singh goes on a pilgrimage a war of purification where he visits all points along the Ganges in an attempt to stop the damming of the river and get the citizens to respect and not pollute it.  Eriel Deranger organizes protests shows up and Enbrige board meeting shames the Tar Sands development and keystone XL Pipelines financiers to defeat their project. While Jay Harden's inventions draws interest from all over the world from financiers and governments alike looking to support radical projects.

The production is beautifully shot. The scenes along the Ganges with the citizens doing laundry,  bathing and conducting community activity are stunning. The night time shots of cultural events along the river are bright and colourful. Things change as the pilgrimage heads up to the mountains, clothing scenery, landscape roadways.  The opening sweeping shots over the tar sands and the work sites is razor sharp. The smoke billowing out of the local plants and presentation of the busses upon busses of workers heading in and out of the plants bring home the scope of the operation. the highlight of the piece is the underwater work as Jay Harman spends time where he is most comfortable in the sea.  The sea creatures, underwater vegetation,  the richness of the water itself is a highlight of the shoot.

Elemental is a solid production that follows the right number of activists for a ninety-minute presentation. The three subjects have the drive to foster change, bring attention to their causes but in the end could be a bit more structured in their approaches. The overall result for the three is that their effort to reach their main goals is trending in the right direction. Elemental is a film that I can recommend.

*** Out of 4.

Elemental | Gayatri Roshan / Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee | USA| 2012 | 92 Minutes.

Eco - Activists | Ganges River | Pollution | Pilgrimage | Alberta Tar Sands | Keystone XL Pipeline | Vortex Ring | Reduced Energy Consumption.

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