Sunday, May 06, 2007

i suppose crap is, in its own way, sustainable

I went to the "Sustainable LA" Short Films Program at the Silverlake Film Festival. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I certainly didn't get it. It felt like the curators of the event didn't prescreen anything-- the vast majority of the films were either 1)Promos, 2)PSAs, or 3)Made-for-the web shorts that really needed some explanation in order to make any sense. Watching a six-minute time-lapse of the erection of a cold storage facility was cool, but I needed to go home and find this to gain any perspective (or even find out what the hell it had to do with sustainability). A bunch of the other stuff fell into the predicable traps of either being shrill and lecturing, self-congratulatory, or overly positivistic and boosterish. Worse than that was the fifteen minute, silent photo slide show from Sundown Schoolhouse. I left wanting to punch these guys in the face-- I don't want to blow a quarter-hour in a dark room watching what my friends did over the weekend, much less complete strangers. It was incomprehensible, pretentious, slow torture.

I'm sorry, I guess I needed to vent. Not everything was bad-- a good quickie from Wolfpack, an impressive tour of the Path to Freedom "urban homestead," and a to-the-point water quality PSA were brief gasps of quality. But the star of the hour was the first piece by Edible Estates, of their second project in Lakewood. This is an organization that has been replacing normative suburban front lawns with fully functioning vegetable gardens. This piece was compelling not because it was slickly produced or even because of it's sustainable qualities (it's roughly identical to any side-yard veggie garden), but because it was the only point at which any real extrapolation of green activism to the general public was even attempted. The Path to Freedom project is incredible in its breath and depth, but is ultimately impossible for the average family-- all these people do is farm their lot. The interview with the owner of the Edible Estates project, rather than focusing on cubic yards of landfill saved or carbon interred, talked about how the garden has re-introduced him to his neighbors, how the family's relationship with food has changed, and most interestingly how his yard is now a usable space for his children. He relates the transformation of what is essentially a no-man's land, a defensible zone, into a mediating space between public and private, between his sidewalk and kitchen. The point is made that in most houses, the front lawn is something between vestigial and decorative. It only makes a tiny change to make it perform. I left the whole event not wanting to buy a home composter, or bike to work, or petition for a cleaner bay, but instead wanting to plant bell peppers in my front yard. Mmmmm bell peppers.

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