The feature films nominated for Oscars include The Swan which is not about a swan and 127 Hours, which features one man's intimate relationship with a rock. But if you are interested in the finest in moviemaking with an environmental theme, for the 2011 Academy Awards, you have to look to the nominees in the documentary categories.
In that, there's nothing new. Last year, The Cove won an Oscar, and the filmmakers caused a stir by unfurling an activist message during the acceptance speech. But, really, what would you expect from folks who made a whole movie about killing dolphins?
In 2011, the Oscar field in the feature-length and short documentary categories are again crowded with nominees that have focused on controversial environmental themes, from villages rising up against Chinese industrial pollution and sea levels rising up against islanders, to a giant gas rush in the U.S. and a giant pile of rubbish in Brazil.
Here's a look at each of the green-themed nominees:
About the controversial natural gas drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," Gasland documents the boom in unconventional drilling for natural gas, and particularly its consequences for the environment. The film has been airing frequently in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the neighborhood of new or proposed gas drilling operations. The movie promises "part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown" and director Josh Fox has, not surprisingly, failed to make friends of the natural gas industry, which denounced the Oscar nomination, which prompted an open letter in response from director Josh Fox.
What do you get if you take a Brazilian-born Brooklyn artist to the world's largest garbage dump, outside his native Rio de Janeiro? Waste Land. Director Lucy Walker follows photographer Vik Muniz as he learns what life is like for the "catadores," or recyclables pickers, and he creates art with them that "reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives."
The subject of Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger's documentary Sun Come Up is the Pacific islands of Carteret, whose residents are becoming the first "climate refugees," as they lose their home island to sea-level rise. That could happen to as many as 250 million worldwide, if projections for worst-case global warming hold true. As TDG Editor Brian Clark Howard wrote in a review of Sun Come Up, "The story of the Carterets is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming, and perhaps prescient of things to come. See photos of the Caterets to learn more about them.
From our friends over at Yale Environment360, comes The Warriors of Qiugang, about the citizens of the Qiugang and their fight to save their village from the industrial poisons affecting them from nearby industry. Chinese-American filmmaker Ruby Yang spent three years with the residents, who are learning to use federal law much as American environmentalists did in the 1960s and '70s to clean up their environment.
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