Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Green Chain "Heralded" for Earth Day

You know Earth Day has gone mainstream when The Calgary Herald is covering it. Yes, that would the same Calgary where they keep all the oil money...

Sure, the headline is about "cashing in" on the environmental movement but still... The story's on the cover of today's entertainment section, complete with a photo of Alberta's own Tricia Helfer. Calgary Herald writer (and author of The White Guy) Stephen Hunt wrote an extensive Earth Day feature for today's paper that covers everything from a green-washing James Bond villain to, the Environmental Media Association and... The Green Chain.

Here's Hunt's take on The Green Chain and Local Anxiety...

For Vancouver-based writer and director and longtime environmentalist Mark Leiren-Young, whose film The Green Chain explores the issue of logging in B.C., the shift in the overall public attitude towards the environment has been pleasantly surprising: touring with his comedy group Local Anxiety across Canada in the early 1990s with a show that included political satire and environmentally-themed sketches, Leiren-Young discovered the rest of the country didn't share Local Anxiety's interest in the environment.

"As soon as we went out of Vancouver, we pretty much had to lose the environmental stuff," Leiren-Young says. "When we played Toronto, I remember our producer saying, 'Lose the stuff about the dolphins and the whales.' So we'd lose all the stuff about dolphins, whales and trees. It just didn't play there."

Leiren-Young and the rest of Local Anxiety taped a television special featuring their political satire in Toronto. Then they went back to B.C. and taped a TV special featuring their environmental material that they were (politely) asked not to perform in Toronto. The result was Greenpieces: An Eco-Comedy, which was broadcast on TV in parts of in Canada and a PBS station in San Diego, where it won an EarthVision award for excellence in environmental filmmaking.

Cut to 15 years later, and the stuff Leiren-Young and his merry band of B.C. satirists couldn't perform elsewhere has become part of the everyday lexicon of the nation.

"Literally, all the stuff we were doing in 1993 in Vancouver is suddenly relevant in 2008 in the rest of Canada," Leiren-Young says.

The greening of pop culture resulted in The Green Chain, (which features, among other's, Alberta's Tricia Helfer), receiving development funding from Telefilm. According to Telefilm's John Dippong, a film such as The Green Chain, which deals with logging by showing both sides of the debate in fictionalized monologues, demonstrates the sort of maturation in the approach filmmakers have made in films discussing environmental themes.

"It basically looks at the whole issue of logging from all sorts of different perspectives," says Dippong of the film, which reaped a best canadian screenwriting nomination from the Writers Guild of Canada for Leiren-Young. "It's really nicely done, because there's no obvious right, wrong or single point of view, which of course is the whole deal with environmental films: it's complicated. Which is interesting."

Dippong sees the increased interest in environmental themes as a logical extension of western Canadian-based filmmakers' sense of place.

"It's kind of dangerous to generalize, but I think western Canadian filmmakers have a pretty distinctive sense of place and environment," Dippong says. "Whether it's the vast open prairies, the mountains, (or) the West Coast here, I think we're starting to see that the environment we live in is starting to influence the stories we tell."

No comments: