Arts Review, Movies

Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival

Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival featured image

Planet in Focus environmental film festival
Oct. 21-25
For more info visit:

Films at the AGO’s Jackman Hall; Innis College at University of Toronto with closing night at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema


Planet in Focus environmental film festival

Ok—time for the big disclosure. I am the senior programmer for the Planet in Focus festival so naturally I like what’s on offer this weekend at the AGO, Innis College and the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.

But, hey, don’t click to another page!

If you think that the environment is worth thinking about and you love docs, there are some compelling films for you to view this weekend. You don’t have to vote Green to care about ecology. Why not become better informed by seeing some of what Planet in Focus has to offer?

Here are some highlights:

Friday, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall, 6:30pm
Strange & Familiar

What can be done to revive traditional rural cultures in an increasingly mechanized age? On Fogo Island, a Maritime community that has been facing devastation since the collapse of cod fishing, native Newfoundlanders architect Todd Saunders and entrepreneur Zita Cobbs have come up with a radical solution. They’ve constructed a stunning original hotel, which is intended to act as a catalyst for the community.

Lavishly filmed by Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight, Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island uses a visual narrative of the construction of an Inn, inviting us to discover the portrait of a small island trying to assert itself by choosing bold contemporary architecture.

Friday, Jackman Hall, 8:30 pm

Protecting the environment is serious business. But Edward Abbey showed that a little fun and sense of adventure go a long way towards inspiring real positive action and change. Abbey was a leading voice in the environmental movement in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in the American Southwest. Director ML Lincoln introduces us to an impressive array of Abbey’s friends and contemporaries, as well as those who have carried on the good fight to the present day. The interviews with these characters are enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring. Beautiful cinematography of the stunning landscape that Abbey fought to protect and archival footage illuminate these interviews throughout Wrenched.


Saturday, Innis College 2:30pm

Meet Gail Rose, a truly unforgettable character. The sixty-something breast cancer survivor is an organic farmer, who, as the film begins, is running the last fallow deer farm in Virginia’s lush Shenandoah Valley. An extraordinary character, she has an indomitable spirit, wry sense of humor, and deep knowledge of raising food sustainably but it’s hard to make a living with a small farm anymore. This lively doc captures three years of Gail Rose’s life as she struggles to fulfill a promise to her late husband, to keep a farm with 100 fallow deers, 130 heritage chickens and several acres of organic gardens economically sustainable.



Saturday, Innis College, 6:30pm
Banking Nature

If a ticket to a movie costs ten dollars, then how much does an hour of sunshine cost? Banking Nature looks at environmentalism from a unique angle and explores the value of nature. Perhaps the key to protecting the environment lies not in moral, ecological, or philosophical questions, but in economic ones. This provocative documentary investigates whether the same institutions that have caused recent economic meltdowns can ultimately propel the environmental movement. If nature is quantified by how much it costs, will the capitalist system turn green? Directors Feydel and Delestrac contribute to a bold and urgent debate.


Saturday, Jackman Hall, 7pm
Good Things Await

Denmark’s preeminent documentary filmmaker Phie Ambo’s profile of controversial agriculturalist Niels Stokholm’s biodynamic farm is, according to Variety’s Alissa Simon, a “sensual craft package (which) perfectly captures the magical beauty and wild danger of Danish nature, and satisfyingly conjures its smells and tastes.” Stokholm has dedicated the past 40 years of his life to raising red cattle, once the dominant form in the country but now virtually extinct. Government officials continually harass the octogenarian farmer for his old fashioned, nearly mystical ways, which break the rules but the acclaimed chef Jesper Moller and the top restaurant in the world, Noma, support Stokholm. Who will win?

Saturday, Jackman Hall, 9:30pm
Angel Azul

Eco-tourism can be an excellent way to raise awareness about endangered environments. But sometimes that same tourism threatens to trample and destroy the very environment that it is supposed to protect. Angel Azul tells the story of one artist’s stunningly beautiful and elegant solution to this dilemma. Jason DeCaires Taylor constructs undersea sculpture parks. These sculptures are designed to provide a foundation for coral reef regeneration and regrowth. The parks educate tourists about the dire conditions of reefs while simultaneously diverting disruptive tourist traffic from fragile natural reefs. With lovely underwater photography, Angel Azul is an excellent example of a fruitful intersection of art and environmentalism.

Sunday, Innis College, 1:30pm
The Pristine Coast

Veteran filmmaker and scientist Scott Renyard has created a devastating account of how fish farms have upset the eco-system in the West Coast. Styled like a very pointed essay, the film argues against unregulated aquaculture industries off the coast of British Columbia, and by extension, globally. The film uses archival footage and interviews how aquaculture was first established, developed, and politically mismanaged at the provincial and federal level. The damage to the marine fish populations is thoroughly explored and explained well to a general audience. There is a breadth of voices in this film from scientists, academics, ex-politicians, activists, and fishermen that illuminate the political, economic, and environmental sides of this issue.

Sunday, Innis College, 4pm
Mongolian Rhapsody

This poetic Irish film reveals the importance of nature to Mongolian culture and traditional music. Irish fiddler Daire Bracken learns that songs not only speak about nature, but that sounds in the music imitate natural sounds. Mongolian throat singing may well have been created to mimic the sound of wind blowing from the mountains. Daire learns the importance of horses to nomadic culture. And he discovers that the horse headed fiddle is an ode to the significance of the horse in traditional culture. Beautiful music played by the Daire and a throat singer is a highlight of this respectful doc.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Good Day GTA.

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