Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Films on global warming (including hurricanes, brush fires)

The film debate started when actor Leonardo Di Caprio announced that he was going to produce a film on global warming. This may date back to the days when he starred in The Beach (2000, 20th Century Fox, dir. Danny Boyle) where he journeys to a threatened national park in coastal Thailand. Di Caprio has produced a 10 minute short on the Web called Global Warming as well as Water Planet.

Of course, the best known recent film is An Inconvenient Truth (20006, Paramount Classics, dir. Davis Guggenheim) were former Democratic Vice President Al Gore gives a well illustrated college lecture, with overwhelming graphical and photographic evidence, including scenes of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. A companion film is Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006, Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Chris Paine) which documents the saga of lease-only electric cars in the late 1990s in California.

The closest thing to a documentary “film” in the early days after the Katrina hurricane catastrophe in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast is Oprah Winfrey’s two day report on Sept. 1 and 2. At one point she enters the Superdome and announces that the stench would make anyone vomit. She provides live coverage of various flooded locations in New Orleands and the Mississippi Coast. Actor Matthew McConaughey (from Texas) co-hosts much of the report.

PBS presented, on Nov. 22 2005, a triple-header of programs documenting Hurricane Katrina. NOVA (from WGBH Boston) gave a chronological account of Katrina in "Storm that Drowned a City." Frontline followed with “Storm,” with a heavy account on the poor preparations of FEMA, partly because it had been filled by Bush with political appointees. The PBS report does not emphasize the racial demographics exacerbating the relief efforts in the flood. Answering to media calls, I would volunteer a bit, sometimes given meals, in a call center in Falls Church VA for the Red Cross and find them bottlenecked when referring clients to a single number for financial aid. “American Experience” presented “Fatal Flood” about the 1927 lower Mississippi flood, with a great emphasis on racial and class segregation, neglect and exploitation. Part of the story concerns the relationship between Greenville Ms business magnate Leroy Percy and his gay son Will Percy (well known as a poet); after constant pressure from the Ku Klux Klan Leroy abandoned the town will traveling on business and left his son in charge of the relief, and Will was caught in serious racial tensions, leading eventually to lynchings.

National Geographic’s Inside Hurricane Katrina (June 22, 2006)(link) is a one hour documentary of the hurricane and especially the levee failure in New Orleans, which now appears to be an engineering failure: The Army Corps of Engineers did not drive the stanchions through the peat layers underneath the levees, so they liquefied, even under a hit from just a Cateogroy 3 Hurriacne.

Another result of global warming is increased brush fires and wildfires. This needs more treatment in film. An early example was The Blazing Forest (1952, Paramount, dir. Edward Ludwig) with John Payne.

The Weather Channel has featured a series "It Could Happen Tomorrow" with global warming disasters like a Category 5 hurricane flooding New York City, or an F5 tornado hitting downtown Dallas, TX.

National Geographic has a film "Ultimate Tornado" (remember the 1996 Jan de Bont film Twister)(written in part by Michael Chricton) that depicts the possibility of an Fujita F5 hitting downtown Dallas, TX, after giving the history of the Jerrell, TX and Moore, OK (near Oklahoma City) tornadoes. Southern Minnesota was hit by severe tornadoes on March 30, 1998.

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