Environmental issues inspire at Film Center festival

A scene from "Sonic Sea" — Michele Ortlip

Now in its second year, “Nature as Inspiration” will bring seven documentaries about the environment to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. In collaboration with the Vineyard Conservation Society, the M.V. Environmental Film Festival will feature a number of environmental experts and advocates in addition to films.

Artist Robert Wyland — Kim Taylor Reece
Artist Robert Wyland — Kim Taylor Reece

After a 6:30 pm opening reception on Thursday, May 26, “Ocean Stories: Wyland,” and “Sonic Sea” will launch the weekend-long film series starting at 7:30 pm. A biographic short about artist Wyland begins on a high note, describing his career creating 100 giant whale murals. The film shows how the festival does not focus just on global warming’s doom and gloom, but celebrates the environment as well.

“Sonic Sea” tells a heartrending story of how the noise from cargo ships, ocean oil drilling, and other human invasions wreaks havoc on whales and other marine mammals. Whales often beach themselves because of the physical damage inflicted in such human intrusions. Three experts will lead the post-screenings. They are Laela Sayigh of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Joel Reynolds of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). IFAW and NRDC were instrumental in the making of “Sonic Sea.”

Another biopic, “Ice and the Sky,” screens on Friday, May 27, at 4 pm. The subject is Claude Lorius. The 82-year-old glaciologist was the first scientist to predict how oil, wood, and coal burning have changed the world’s environment. During multiple Antarctic expeditions, Lorius studied how glacial ice crystals and the fossil air in bubbles describe the effect of carbon dioxide on world temperatures. “We can date every nuclear explosion to the day in the ice,” he says. Director Luc Jacquet also made the Oscar-winning “March of the Penguins” in 2005.

Following at 7:30 pm, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things that Climate Can’t Change” looks at how climate change affects 12 different countries. Filmed by Josh Fox, who also directed Oscar-nominated “Gasland,” this documentary ends with an optimistic view. Fox will answer questions by Skype.

Coming Saturday, May 28, are “Seasons” and “Bikes vs. Cars.” Directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, who made “Winged Migration,” “Seasons” screens at 4 pm. Opening with the Ice Age, it follows the animals who survived, and traces how the animal world has adapted to worldwide warming trends, then the incursion of humans. Leading the post-film discussion is Harvard faculty member David R. Foster, director of the Harvard Forest. Dr. Foster’s forthcoming book, “A Meeting of Land and Sea: Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard,” explores the topics addressed in “Seasons.”

“It’s a stunning movie that should generate much thought,” Dr. Foster said in an email to the Times. “I expect that movie will be of interest for its relevance to the Island as well as provoking broader discussion of our changing planet.”

At 7:30 pm, “Bikes vs. Cars” explores the competition between these two forms of transportation. Chock-full of statistics, it spends time in São Paulo, Brazil, Los Angeles, Calif., and Copenhagen, Denmark, with biking advocates and in Toronto, Ontario, with the anti-biking late mayor of Toronto.

Actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. — Michele Ortlip
Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. — Michele Ortlip

A post-screening discussion after “Bikes vs. Cars” will highlight the weekend’s series. Director Fredrik Gertten will fly from Copenhagen to attend. Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. will join him, along with Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee member Dave Whitmon. A biking proponent, Mr. Begley has a reality TV series, “On Begley Street,” which documents his family’s effort to build the greenest, most sustainable home on the continent.

“I’m an avid bike rider, not just for fun but for transportation,” Mr. Begley said. “I loved ‘Bikes vs. Cars’ because it shows real-world situations.”

The festival will conclude on Sunday, May 29, with “Merchants of Doubt” at 4 pm and “Love Thy Nature” at 7:30 pm. Based on the 2010 book of the same name, “Merchants of Doubt” examines how contrarian scientists from conservative think tanks have obscured the truth about global warming and other social issues. The Woods Hole Research Center’s president and executive director, Dr. Philip B. Duffy, will lead the discussion following the film. Narrated by actor Liam Neeson, the final film of the series, “Love Thy Nature,” poetically celebrates the natural world. It emphasizes our relationship with nature as the key to solving the world’s environmental and climate crises. Director Sylvie Rokab will lead the post-film discussion by Skype.

During the festival, the Film Center’s Feldman Family Art Space will display art by Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students. Their work comes from the third annual Vineyard Conservation Society contest, in which students responded to the question, “What do waste and its consequences look like?”


For screening times and tickets for festival films, visit mvfilmsociety.com, or go to MV Times event listings.


This article by Brooks Robards originally appeared on mvtimes.com.