Dirty hippies and ice: green docs at this year's Sundance Film Festival

If filmmakers are poets, than documentarians stand out for their use of synecdoche: the most powerful docs almost always rely on stories that point to issues bigger than themselves. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH isn’t just about climate change, but also about human shepherding of resources. GASLAND isn’t just about fracking, but corporate power, and its effects on the lives of individuals.

Two documentaries premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival not only follow in this poetic tradition, but even revel in it.

A FIERCE GREEN FIRE (trailer above) tells the story of modern American environmental activism in the format of Renaissance drama: five acts explore the evolution of green protest from the conservation movement of the sixties to current battles over climate change. In each “act,” director Mark Kitchell chooses a seminal conflict that encompasses the historical moment, and pulls together archival footage and interviews from prominent actors in that conflict. The film makes its world premiere in Park City on January 23rd. If you’d like to help the producers wrap the film up, check out their Indiegogo project; if you’d like to check out excerpts, head over to the official web site.

Jeff Orlowski’s CHASING ICE focuses on photographer James Balog’s search for a fitting symbol for climate change, and his choice of ice as that symbol. Sound as interesting as, well, melting ice? It’s more a story of artistic inspiration than the science of global warming: Orlowski shows how Balog takes his initial assignment  - a National Geographic cover story –  and turns it into a vast, long-term artistic experiment designed to show viewers the impact of a warming atmosphere. CHASING ICE will compete with other US documentaries for a festival prize, and will debut on January 23rd. No trailer yet, but the producers have put together an official web site for the film.

Heading to the festival later this month? Plan to check either of these films out? Share your thoughts with us.