Environmental Film Festival runs gamut from organic dairy farming to 'sexy' soil

Contributing writerApril 18, 2013 


    What: The Olympia Film Society presents its fourth annual festival devoted to environmental films.

    When: Friday-Sunday

    Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia

    Tickets (per screening): $8.50 general admission, $5.50 for film society members, $4 for children 12 and younger. For matinees, $5.50 general admission, $4.50 for members, $4 for children.

    Full pass: $35 general admission, $25 for film-society members; available at www.­olympiafilmsociety.org

    More information: 360-754-6670 or www.­olympiafilmsociety.org



    6:30 p.m. “Last Call at the Oasis” explores the impending shortage of drinkable water.

    9 p.m. “Empowered: Power From the People” takes a look at Tompkins County, N.Y., a community that is meeting its energy needs through renewable resources.


    4 p.m. “The Moo Man,” featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, follows English organic dairy farmer Stephen Hook. Roger Walker-Dack of 5 Minute Movie Guide described it as “a charming documentary about a rather disarming farmer who is completely besotted with his cows.”

    6 p.m. “Symphony of the Soil” (with director Q&A) explores soil from the perspectives of ancient wisdom and cutting-edge science.

    9 p.m. “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” examines the 1990 car bombing that nearly killed Bari and fellow environmental activist Darryl Cherney. The film offers a $50,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to solving the case.


    2:30 p.m. “Trashed,” narrated by Jeremy Irons, vividly depicts the overwhelming accumulation of waste all over the planet.

    5 p.m. “Bidder 70” tells the story of Tim DeChristopher, who bid on oil and gas rights on federal land to prevent drilling on them. DeChristopher was charged with misrepresenting himself at the auction and has been serving a two-year sentence; he was scheduled to be released Sunday.

    7:30 p.m. “A Place at the Table” (with a discussion with Garden-Raised Bounty and the Thurston County Food Bank) addresses the epidemic of hunger in the United States. Donations will be accepted for GRuB.

How overlooked is soil?

We walk all over it. We treat it like dirt. One of its names is mud. And most of us take it for granted.

But soil — the top layer of earth, which nourishes plants and is home to countless tiny organisms — is our home, too.

That’s the message of Deborah Koons Garcia’s “Symphony of the Soil,” screening Saturday as part of the 2013 Olympia Environmental Film Festival. Koons Garcia, the widow of Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, will introduce the film and answer questions afterward.

“We are creatures of the soil,” said Koons Garcia, who lives in Mill Valley, Calif. “When a woman is pregnant and growing a baby inside, those nutrients that create the baby’s body come from the food the woman eats, and those nutrients come from the soil. We are made of the soil. When we die, we often go back to the soil.

“Soil is the ultimate zone of transformation on the planet,” she said. “It’s the place where the cycle of life takes place most obviously.”

In an exploration of soil science and our relationship with soil, Koons Garcia traveled to the volcanoes of Hawaii and the glaciers of Norway — and the Palouse of Washington. “Some of the most amazing agricultural land on the planet is in Eastern Washington,” she said.

If soil science sounds a little dry, the filmmaker has worked hard to blend in plenty of art, classical music scored for the film, and hand-drawn animation that illustrates complex scientific ideas.

In fact, Sunset Magazine proclaimed that the film “shows that even soil can be a sexy screen star.”

Asked about the sexy part, Koons Garcia laughed. “That is what one of the soil scientists said; he said, ‘You make soil sexy,’ ” she said. “We took the science out of the realm of the textbook and put it up on the screen.

“It is sensual,” she said. “Putting your hands in soil, really wonderful soil, is a sensual thing to do.”

Although healthy topsoil is rapidly becoming an endangered resource, “Symphony” is a hopeful film, offering ways that Americans can take better care of soil in the future.

That’s a common thread among the documentaries in the festival, said Olympia Film Society film programmer Helen Thornton. “All of the films talk about solutions, so they’re not depressing.”

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