July 10th, 2013
Andy Revkin hosted a lively “arguing match” (not a debate) between filmmaker Robert Stone and longtime environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. after a screening of Stone’s new “documentary” “Pandora’s Promise.” These environmental “documentaries” are getting so tiresome. What is a “documentary” any more? Michael Moore kind of started this mess. It’s time for two things — splitting “documentaries” into two categories just as a newspaper does — objective (the news) versus subjective (the OpEd page). Second, something like the National Academy of Sciences should start offering peer review for documentaries so they can have some sort of third party seal of approval like peer review. It wouldn’t be perfect, but at least you could have some clue of whether the filmmaker tried to use reputable science or not.
HELL NO, WE WON’T GLOW. As much as I want to cheer for RFK, Jr., his attack on the film is so ramshackle you’re left with nobody to support.
SLINGING RADIOACTIVE MUD
My favorite environmental blogger, Andy Revkin, bravely hosted last week a post-screening something or other (not a debate, not really a discussion, more just a cocktail party argument). On one side he had a guy who has thoroughly discredited himself in the past by teaming up with a bean brain (Jenny McCarthy) to argue that vaccinations cause autism. On the other side was a filmmaker whose film was dismissed in the NY Times as “one sided.” Kind of like “Biased and Biased-er.”
The result is a mud slinging contest punctuated occasionally by long winded mini-lectures from audience members.
The video of the event is worth watching — there are some good moments. Kennedy shockingly calls Shellenberger and Nordhaus and their Breakthrough Institute “anti-environmentalists” — that’s like calling someone on the Boston Red Sox anti-baseball because they hope the Yankees lose. But then Stone has a film that has been roundly criticized for being so unbalanced.
It’s actually an important debate. It’s along the same lines as the basic sustainability debates — should environmentalists partner with corporations or not. That’s not an easy question to answer. Purist or realist — which are you? RFK, Jr. is trying to be a purist, Stone is wanting to be a realist.
IS THIS STUFF USEFUL?
At the end Andy asks the very good question of whether the film is going to be valuable in catalyzing the debate. Neither of them answer it. I suppose the answer is yes, somewhat, but it sure would be nice to have a film that let both sides present their case to the best of their abilities. Stone claims that he knows “the truth” about the issue (he really does claim this), and that’s why he wouldn’t let the opposition say much in his film. Sheesh.
That’s a pretty lousy perspective for a supposed “documentarian.” The bottom line for me is that I’m just not a fan of the word, “documentary” any more. It’s all a big mess which can somewhat be traced back to Michael Moore and his 1989 film, “Roger and Me.” I remember when that film came out, reading essays from film “purists” decrying the bastardization of basic documentary ethics. Back then I thought, “What’s the big deal?” But nowadays when I look at these pieces of garbage that get nominated for Oscars, I realize how smart those critics were back then. They were able to see what it would lead to. Oh, well.