VIFF 2011 Reviews: Surviving Progress; Waking the Green Tiger; West Wind, the Vision of Tom Thomson. (2)

Monday 26 September

Documentaries at film festivals tend to focus on a limited set of topics: society, the environment and artists. Happily for Canadian film makers, these are meat and poutine to Canadian audiences. Unhappily for transplanted Brits like me, Canadian docs lack the spice served up by European, Asian or even American efforts.

Surviving Progress. Canada, 87 min.

Having read Ronald Wright’s intriguing book A Short History of Progress, I was looking forward to a sequel here. What I got was a rehash of the book. Those who have not read the book will be entertained by concepts such as the “progress trap”, a political or economic move that seemed such a good idea at the time. Unstated, but apparent from the comments of the talking heads, is the failure of policy makers to distinguish between riches and wealth.

Summary: Confirmation bias for contrarians.

Based on

Waking the Green Tiger. Canada, 78 min.

A group of Chines environmental activists weigh in against plans to build a dozen hydro-electric dams on the Nu River, flooding farmland and villages. Film maker Gary Marcuse traces the history of environmental blunders back to the Mao regime which saw the slaughter of millions of sparrows and a laughable attempt to play Canute with an inconvenient lake.

Summary: This film will have you slapping your forehead with the heel of your hand.

West Wind: The vision of Tom Thomson. Canada, 95 min.

The life of Tom Thomson, Canada’s late contribution to post-impressionism, has always held a mystery for me. Oh, it’s not his death, a possible murder, that puzzles me. No. I have always wondered why Thomson spent years stuck in Ontario’s Algonquin Park painting landscapes instead of developing and diversifying his subject matter. Had he done so, he might be recognized internationally today as more than a minor Twentieth Century artist.

Summary: A full biography of Thomson’s life and work.

About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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