See This Movie!

My mom has been convinced for years that my organizing and activism is really just a stepping stone to a career in Hollywood. I love my Mom, but I have no idea why she thinks this. I have no interest in acting. I haven’t been in a theatrical performance since a role in the HMS Pinafore in the 2nd grade (I was “sailor no. 3”, and had no lines).But I’m really afraid that when she reads this blog, she’s going to say “See! I told you”.You see, I just got back from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, attending the world premier of a film I had a feature role in.It’s called Dirty Energy. You’ve gotta see it. I played myself. The film also features friends of mine who attended the premier: Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott, Louisiana shrimper/oysterman George Barasich, fishing community advocate Margaret Curole and her husband Kevin (a former shrimper) and a number of other important Gulf voices.Dirty Energy is a powerful film because it is committed to sharing the stories of the people who lived the BP drilling disaster, and who are still dealing with the fallout.Thanks to the support of some great Santa Barbara institutions, we had an opportunity to share the film with a huge theater full of folks, and have discussions about what’s been happening to the Gulf and coastal communities recently. At a q and a with the director, Bryan Hopkins, and all the folks above, we heard about George’s challenges shrimping last season, and how his oysters aren’t really coming back. We heard about the ongoing fight to make sure fishing communities are properly compensated. I shared the ecological concerns that are mounting. Rikki pointed out how so much of this is the exact same script that Exxon used, and how critical it is we level the playing field between corporations and the grassroots.It was important to share this information in Santa Barbara, because they know a thing or two about massive oil spills. The 1969 SB oil spill helped launch the Earth Day movement and pass the Clean Water Act. Nearly two years after the disaster in the Gulf, and we still haven’t seen a single piece of legislation signed by the President to protect the Gulf from future oil disasters, or fund the large-scale restoration necessary. One other thing that Riki said really stuck with me, and gave me a shot of hope, even though so much of what we’re dealing with seems almost insurmountable: battling BP’s PR blasting out the message that everything’s back on track in the Gulf, ads that ignore the health problems, and pretend their oil isn’t still washing up on Gulf barrier islands and beaches.I found a little hope in the very fact that we were there, supporting an important film. Apparently, the first documentary about the Exxon Valdez didn’t show up for 18 years. The explosion of documentary filmmaking since Exxon guarantees that we have some alternative viewpoints out there, informing people that it’s not going down just like BP says it is.There are a number of films which seek to counter BP’s narrative, and more to come. Dirty Energy is worth checking out, and if you’re in Santa Barbara, you’ve got a couple more chances this week. Or Clevelend in a couple months. The outcome of any of the BP drilling disaster documentaries, of course, needs to be action, not just information. Once you see, what will you do? I know what I’m going to do. And it’s far more likely to include a trip to Washington DC than Hollywood.Aaron is GRN’s deputy director. You can follow him on twitter here.UPDATE: Dirty Energy won the 2012 Social Justice Award for Documentary Film from the Fund for Santa Barbara! Read more about the award here.

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