Noted filmmaker to appear at Amherst Cinema; talk will follow environmental documentary
A new movie about the environmental movement over the past 50 years will get an advance screening at the Amherst Cinema next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., followed by an appearance by the filmmaker.
“A Fierce Green Fire” was produced, directed and written by Mark Kitchell, who lives in San Francisco and has family ties to the Pioneer Valley. The late Amherst architect Peter Kitchell was his father, and singer Sonya Kitchell, who grew up in Ashfield, is his niece. His stepmother, Susan Lowenstein of Amherst, arranged for him to show the film and answer questions here.
Kitchell is best known for his 1990 film “Berkeley in the Sixties,” which chronicled protest movements during that turbulent decade. It was nominated for an Academy Award.
His new film starts with the battles over dams in California, which led to the creation of the Sierra Club. It looks at the influence of photos of Earth taken from the moon in 1969 and the 20 million people who participated in Earth Day in 1970. It includes footage from protests over toxic pollution at Love Canal in New York state in the 1970s, and President Jimmy Carter putting solar panels on the White House, only to have them taken down by President Ronald Reagan.
The film includes 1976 and current interviews with Amory Lovins, who grew up in Amherst and became a pioneer in alternative energy. It chronicles the efforts by Greenpeace to protect whales and efforts by indigenous people in Brazil and India to combat deforestation. It ends with a section on efforts to limit climate change.
It is divided into five “acts,” each about 20 minutes long and each with a different narrator. They are actors Robert Redford and Meryl Streep and Ashley Judd, activist Van Jones and writer Isabel Allende. It includes interviews with environmental activists Stewart Brand, Carl Pope, Lois Gibbs, Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva and Bill McKibben.
The film cost about $500,000 to make and is due to be released in independent movie houses next spring.
Kitchell, 60, said he grew up in San Francisco and has often visited the Amherst area. The film is dedicated to his late mother, Charlotte Kitchell, who lived in Amherst.
He said in an interview that he made the movie because no one had tied all the strands of the environmental movement together before. The first four acts show stories of successes, while the last one, about climate change, is still uncertain. But activists can take hope from the past successes, he said.
“There’s a general sense of growth of the movement from local and small to bigger and broader in scope until it’s the whole world, our very civilization,” he said. “What the movement is ultimately about isn’t just climate change. It’s about finding a sustainable path to the future.”