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Green days

Olympia Environmental Film Festival stays positive

"Carbon Nation" is an optimistic, solutions-based, non-partisan documentary that illustrates why it's incredibly smart to be a part of the new, low-carbon economy: it's good business.

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Last year's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf and Japan's current tribulations with natural and man-made disasters are periodic, sober warnings of people's tenuous yet vital hold on the environment. Nature nurtures both our physical and artistic instincts. A filmmaker, for instance, looks about and sees Earth as one vast mise-en-scène, its raw materials photographed in endless combinations to suit infinite stories.

The Olympia Film Society's second annual Environmental Film Festival, April 15-17, celebrates a few of those stories that carry a unifying message: lean, clean and green, baby.

Such a young event I predict can only generate steam (or wind energy *yuk yuk*) in a city that doesn't shy away from social matters. A bevy of enviro-minded groups came forward to sponsor the films and activities packing Capitol Theater this weekend.

"I think it's made clear by the number of environmental groups (in town), not just local groups that are part of national organizations and state organizations ... (that) most Olympians are concerned about the environment," says OFS Film Programming Director Helen Thornton.

The Society has chosen a well-balanced film buffet ranging in age, style and country of origin. Friday's Opening Night Celebration concludes with a screening of the 2010 documentary feature Carbon Nation. Serious in its intentions, the movie still exudes a playfulness hinted in its tagline, "A climate change solutions movie (that doesn't even care if you believe in climate change)." And with the winning Warren Etheredge moderating a post-film discussion (paneled by local experts and, via Skype, Sabot 6 CEO Dan Nolan, who appears in Carbon Nation), expect a joke or two.

A wave of optimism blankets this festival. If you think the Capitol has lined up a depressing procession of movies enraged at our irrevocable ravaging of this planet, think again. Many people instinctively sniff out and avoid art with an obvious axe to grind; besides, when has fear-mongering, hopelessness and blind anger ever led to rational discussion and cooperative action?

"We've picked films that are not just doom and gloom," says Thornton. "They're positive - they're showing what people are doing, what people can do, what the government can do."

She and OFS have populated their screen with movie figures, both real and imagined, preserving the future by doing their part today. You'll see Bruce Dern (and his adorable waddling robot pals) rescue a green world from extinction in the 1972 cult classic Silent Running. You'll root for one Fantastic Mr. Fox who joins forces with other critters to stop destructive farmers. And you will peer with wonder Into Eternity at the colossal underground caves that engineers hope will protect our descendants 100,000 years from now.

Thornton hopes "these films will move all of us to do something small to help the environment."

2nd Annual Environmental Film Festival


April 15-17, times and prices vary
olympiafilmsociety. org for full schedule
Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia
360.754.6670

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