It's a crazy night in Downtown LA - the Lakers won the NBA championship, E3 continues to generate buzz and the Los Angeles Film Festival kicks off it's 16th edition with a screening of Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right. Luckily, I'm far away from the madness...though I have already seen people lighting off fireworks in celebration of the yellow & purple.
Personally, it's the film festival that gets me all revved up, so in honor of the LAFF, here's a special movie edition of the Lush List, highlighting some of the science-related films that will be playing at this year's fest. You may recognize some of the titles from my Sundance round up, and if you're in LA, make sure to check out the post-screening conversation for One Lucky Elephant. Descriptions courtesy of the 2010 LAFF Film Festival Guide.
The mischievous maverick Mark Lewis first told this story in his short 1988 classic Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. Now, aided by eye-popping 3D, he updates the horror in his inimitable tongue in cheek style. Documentary and archival footage come together as the toad's victims are interviewed and the elaborate efforts to stomp the interlopers out are demonstrated. But nothing can match Lewis’ recreations. They are in a class by themselves, as Lewis shows us the effects the toad has on any dog who happens to lick it. If you've ever wondered what a canine acid trip looks like, look no further. (David Ansen)
(Netherlands, 2009, 90 mins, DigiBeta (NTSC))
Directed By: Ditteke Mensink; Producer: Pieter van Huijstee; Screenwriter: Ditteke Mensink; Editor: Jessica de Koning; Cast: Narrated by Poppy Elliott
Combining spectacular archival footage of the journey across New York, Siberia, Tokyo, and the Pacific with narration drawn from Drummond’s articles and her private journals, this sweeping black and white documentary stands as a vision of technological marvels and global hope in that narrow window between world wars when everything seemed possible except true love. (Amy Nicholson)
Ten years in the making, One Lucky Elephant is a remarkable achievement. Eschewing easy sentimentality, the film beautifully captures the delicate love between David and Flora, but it also doesn’t shy away from examining the problems and mysteries posed by keeping wild animals in captivity. It’s a complicated, fascinating issue, and there are no clear answers for anyone involved, least of all David and Flora, two extraordinary individuals you’ll never forget. (Doug Jones)
To note: A post-screening Q&A and extended conversation to explore the timely issues raised by the film will follow the screening on June 19. Moderated by Charles Siebert, acclaimed New York Times journalist and author of An Elephant Crack Up, Angus, and The Wauchula Woods Accord, with guests Ron Kagan (Director, Detroit Zoo), Dr. Toni Frohoff (behavioral and wildlife biologist; TED Global 2010 conference speaker), Laura Balding (Equestrian Advisor and Co-Founder, Therapeutic Horsemanship), and filmmakers Lisa Leeman (director) and Cristina Colissimo (producer and co-founder of Ahali Elephants). Additional special guests to be announced.
4. Space Tourists
Directed By: Christian Frei; Producer: Christian Frei; Cinematographer: Peter Indergand; Editors: Christian Frei, Andreas Winterstein; Cast: Anousheh Ansari, Jonas Bendiksen, Dumitru Popescu, Charles Simonyi
Examining both the idealism and the reality behind space exploration today, Frei’s documentary launches us into space with the first woman space tourist, an Iranian-American Texas millionaire, while on the ground a motley crew of “space junk” collectors make their living off what comes tumbling to earth. (Jennifer Wilson)
(USA, 2010, 104 mins, HDCam Frame Rate 23.98)
Directed By: Josh Fox; Executive Producers: Debra Winger, Hunter Gray; Producers: Trish Adlesic, Josh Fox, Molly Gandour; Screenwriter: Josh Fox; Cinematographers: Josh Fox, Matthew Sanchez; Editor: Matthew Sanchez; Cast: Josh Fox, Theo Coburn, Dr. Al Almendariz, John & Kathy Fenton, Mike & Marsha Markhan, Amee & Jesse Ellsworth, Debbie Mae, Pat Farnelli, Renee McClure, Jeff & Rhonda Locker, Lewis Meek, Lisa Bracken, Weston Wilson, Calvin Tilman, Scott Stinger, James Gennaro
In a down-to-earth and unassuming style, Fox explains the complicated and costly process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” and exposes its environmental impact on our air, soil, water, and livestock. Meanwhile, the citizens of “Gasland” testify to the health hazards posed by the industry, including an unforgettable demonstration of flammable tap water. In this time of energy handwringing and green initiatives, Fox’s extraordinary example of DIY muckraking is a vibrant testament to the vitality of citizen journalism and a must-see for every American who is concerned about the environment. (Matt Cornell)
6. Climate Refugees
(Bangladesh, Chad, China, Kenya, Tuvalu, USA, 2010, 89 mins, HD - CAM 1080I 59.94)
In English, Bengali, Chinese, Sudanese with English subtitles
Directed By: Michael P. Nash; Executive Producers: Pat McConathy, Stephen Nemeth; Producers: Michael P. Nash, Justin Hogan; Screenwriter: Michael P. Nash; Cinematographer: Michael P. Nash; Editors: Michael P. Nash, Bret Langefels, Nancy Frazen; Cast: Rajendra K Pachauri Ipcc, Dr.Stephen Schneider, Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., Lester R. Brown, Newt Gingrich, Prof. Wangari Maathai, Secretary Ken Salazar, Senator John Kerry, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Tino Cuellar, Yvo De Boer; Music: Michael Mollura
Climate refugees are populations who are being displaced by the effects of extreme climate change, both natural and manmade. Through intimate interviews, expert testimony, and unforgettable images, Nash and his dedicated team convey the disastrous political, social, and ecological effects this migration could cause. While Congressional and U.N. leaders attest on-screen that the situation is critical, the fact remains that there is no contingency plan or multi-national accord addressing the issue.
Capturing a world that is distressingly unaware of this aspect of the global warming crisis, Nash’s film is an urgent call for action. To sustain life as we know it, and to guarantee a future for the next generation, we must mobilize to find solutions now. (Christine Davila)