Friday, March 9, 2012


Saturday afternoon's POWFest schedule brings a trio of thematically-connected documentaries about individuals whose lives are inextricably linked to their actions on behalf of the natural world.  From tree-planting to chronicles of direct activism, the films take a complex view of three people who looked outside of themselves and chose to practice stewardship of the planet's resources.

A still from 10,000 Trees

10,000 Trees tells the story of Victor Kaufmann, a man whose wide-open plot of farmland inspired him to begin planting trees.  Sarah Berkovich and Sarah Ginsburg's film catches up with Kaufmann as he is about to plant his 10,000th tree on the property; an accomplishment which Kaufmann's son describes as a "milestone," rather than the end of the journey.

A still from 10,000 Trees

For much of the film, Kaufmann comes off as simplistic in his world view; an assumption that is amply rebutted in a moment where he reads aloud from a letter written to his granddaughter.  In the handwritten note, he offers up his understanding of the problems and meager solutions found in this world, showing both self-awareness and humility concerning his own role within that balance.  

It's a beautiful moment in a film that already does so many things well; it's exceptionally well edited (note the moment when Kaufmann asks if he should begin describing the environment of his shed), gorgeously shot and contains more than enough air within the piece to really let the story breathe.

A still from An Ordinary Life

Patricia Somers' An Ordinary Life focuses on Dot Fisher-Smith an octogenarian activist whose consciousness became roused and redirected in the upheaval that was the 1960s protest scene, bringing her to spearhead actions against logging, war, etc.  At the same time, Fisher-Smith is a practicing Buddhist whose life philosophy reflects her spiritual search.  She's also one hell of a talker, something that becomes abundantly apparent only a few minutes into the film.

A still from An Ordinary Life

An Ordinary Life barely has a second that isn't pushed forward by Dot's scene-grabbing personality.  What this delightful character study sometimes lacks in focus, it makes up for in charm, effectively mirroring the woman who is its subject.

An Ordinary Life - Trailer from Patricia Somers on Vimeo.

A still from Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000

By far, the most inspiring of Saturday afternoon's documentary showcase is Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000Susan Edwards and Dorie Clark's impeccably constructed film highlights Marion Stoddart's trailblazing efforts in the mid-1960s to restore the Nashua River, after decades of neglect had left it filled with industrial waste and unusable by the communities through which it ran.

A still from Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000

Stoddart spearheaded a campaign that began with gathering signatures, eventually forming the Nashua River Watershed Association, paving the way for a monumental reassessment of the manner in which communities, government and industry interacted with that body of water.  For all that she accomplished, Stoddart comes across as someone who views herself as ordinary, stating as much for the cameras when discussing how she and her husband met.

A still from Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000

The subtitle of the film springs from an inspirational quote that Stoddart stumbled upon in a magazine.  Most people would have been satisfied enough with reading that "one person can do the work of 1000;" but then, Marion Stoddart is not most people. 

Festival passes can be acquired at this link and tickets for individual screenings can be purchased here.

10,000 Trees, An Ordinary Life & Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000 will screen together at POWFest on Sat., March 10th at 2:30pm at the Hollywood Theatre.

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Susan Edwards said...

Thank you for the wonderful blog post spotlighting POWFest's Documentary Showcase: "Ordinary People/Extraordinary Lives." I'm the creator of Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000 and excited to be here! Hope you'll all come to the Hollywood Theatre at 2:30 for the movies and a short Q&A. And come say "hi"!

Nick Bruno said...

Hey Susan,

I'm hanging out with my 4 month old son all day. So, unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to the screening. Really glad to have had the opportunity to view and write about your film, though. And I look forward to future work from you.


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