Sundance environmental films: activism

Enjoy a good David vs. Goliath story? Or perhaps a tale of a passionate person who lets his/her zeal turn from good to ugly? This year’s Sundance Film Festival has you covered. Both of the environmentally-themed films in the US Documentary Competition address activism and activists… warts and all.

Bill Haney’s THE LAST MOUNTAIN delves into an issue that’s become very hot among environmentalists over the past decade: mountaintop removal by coal mining companies. Focused on West Virginia’s Coal River Valley, the film explores the community’s fight against this practice, which damages both the natural environment, and the people living in the vicinity. Check out the trailer above.

Marshall Curry has dealt with this kind of grassroots activism in the past, but his film premiering this year, IF A TREE FALLS: THE STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT, deals with the difficult subject of radical, destructive action in the name of environmental protection. Was ELF member Daniel McGowan taking necessary, if extreme, action by participating in arson plots… or is he a terrorist, as the government claims?

Ready for more stories of individuals and communities taking on the system? Some past Sundance films that highlight activism include

  • EARTH DAYS (2009): Director Robert Stone explores the event that many describe as the birth of the modern environmental movement — the first Earth Day in 1970.
  • THE UNFORESEEN (2007): Texas’s hill country becomes the scene of a fight over development, the natural environment, political allegiances, and the American Dream itself in Laura Dunn’s documentary.

Both THE LAST MOUNTAIN and IF A TREE FALLS premiere on Friday, January 21st in Park City. If you get a chance to check either of them out, let us know what you think…