If a crime is committed to prevent a greater crime, is it forgivable? Is it necessary?
That's the question filmgoers will get to examine this Earth Day weekend at the Portland EcoFilm Festival as they watch the Portland premiere of "The Reluctant Radical," a documentary about the protest that shut down all of the U.S. tar sands oil pipelines on Oct. 11, 2016.
Columbia River Gorge resident Ken Ward was one of the several activists, called "valve turners," charged with felonies for their act of civil disobedience.
Ward, who was acquitted, will be at the screening Saturday, April 21, at the Hollywood Theatre for a panel Q&A — along with Portland filmmaker Lindsey Goodwin-Grayzel and all but one of the other activists involved (two are awaiting trial and one is currently serving jail time for the incident).
"The film became a cause for me, personally, and eco-filmmakers," says festival director Dawn Smallman. "The filmmakers were arrested and charged with the exact same felonies. They're looking at decades in jail potentially for making a film. That's a big concern for us. We want to make sure they're doing great documentary work to tell the world the truth about things, and that their rights of freedom speech and the press are protected."
This is the sixth year of the Portland EcoFilm Fest, which typically occurs over four days in the fall, except this year Smallman wanted to celebrate Earth Day with a handful of curated films making their Portland premieres that are both inspirational and provoke discussion.
The five films showing Friday, April 20, through Sunday, April 22, at the Hollywood Theatre explore climate activism as well as the intersection of the environment and social justice, landscape design, and the beauty of the natural world.
If current world events have gotten you fired up about calling for environmental change — whether it's by attending a rally or protest, joining a beach cleanup or volunteering for a local nonprofit — this weekend's films may be just what you need.
"People have such a preconceived idea of what an environmental activist protester is," Smallman says. "This group of people might bust those ideas. They're deeply committed to peace; they're humanitarians; many are people of faith."
"The Reluctant Radical will show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21. Here's a look at the rest of the lineup:
Based on the Hopi people's word for "unbalanced life," this 1982 film was the first environmental film that is a montage of eye candy about the environment and man's effect on it, featuring images of the pristine environment and how it appears in cultures around the world. It includes an original music score by the legendary American composer Philip Glass.
"Reel Talk: Beyond the Big Fish," 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22
Two short films and a conversation with Eco-Film partners are on tap for Sunday afternoon. One is the short film "Chandalar," which profiles local nonprofit Soul River's work in pairing economically disadvantaged youth with veterans who teach them how to fly-fish. The other is an environmentally focused music video, "Earthbound," a call for everyone to join the environmental conservation movement.
The films will be followed by a panel discussion including Soul River founder Chris Brown, Oregon Wild, Portland hip hop artist Mic Crenshaw and social justice advocate Sharon Gary-Smith, as they explore ways to build diversity into environmental advocacy. "It's a much needed conversation," Smallman says.
"Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf," 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22
This film is a biography about one of the premier landscape designers in the world, Piet Oudolf, and his transformational ideas about public nature space and beauty itself. The film is a must-see for plant-worshippers, and anyone who enjoys exploring the creative process. It's presented with Friends of Portland Community Gardens.
Portland EcoFilm Festival
When: Friday, April 20-Sunday, April 22
Where: Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
Cost: Tickets are $10, $8 for students and seniors
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