The Films Of Reel Waste

Be careful of what you consume and aware of what you toss — this is Reel Waste.

Reel Waste: Films On Garbage
Featuring: The Clean Bin Project, Dirt! The Movie,
Taste the Waste, Kenny the Movie, Waste Land,
The Gleaners and I, God’s Children, and Trek.
May 8 through May 12
Metro Cinema

Wednesday, May 11, 7 p.m.
Metro Theatre
4 ½ out of 5 Stars

The artist as magpie. It’s an image that’s often used because in various mythologies the birds are celebrated for their crafty instincts and their propensity to purloin and secret glittering articles. Their nests are noted for their strength and warmth. Sometimes they’re portrayed as gossips and busybodies but equally as a loyal friend of humans who warn them of danger or take up their cause in times of trouble. The birds are also similar to gleaners — those who forage for the grain left by the harvesters.

All these images apply to Agnes Varda, the Belgium-born French filmmaker who’s associated with both New Wave and Left Bank filmmakers of the 1960s and ’70s. She was married for many years to fellow director Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, 1964) until his death in 1990. This critic still has a strong memory of one of her early films, Lion’s Love (1969), seen in those turbulent times, which featured James Rado and Gerome Ragni (creators of the musical Hair), Andy Warhol superstar Viva, and a young Jim Morrison of The Doors. The personal reference isn’t out of line here as Varda is one of those artists who has always woven herself into her art until the two become inseparable. This is especially true of The Gleaners and I (2000), her millennium film, which on one level is about human waste and those who use what society has cast off, but also encompasses art history, thoughts on her own aging and mortality, psychology, law, Étienne-Jules Marey (an early filmmaking and photographic pioneer like Eadweard Muybridge), cats, and many other subjects melded into a film whose humanity, breadth and balance is profound. It has deservedly won several awards for Best Documentary from the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Boston Society of Film Critics, as well as The Public Choice Award at our own Montreal Festival Of New Cinema. It’s an incredibly moving piece of cinema.

Varda’s film is one of seven playing at The Metro Cinema’s Reel Waste series: Films on Garbage. The series explores many aspects of waste.

Monday, May 9, 9 p.m.
Metro Theatre
4 out of 5 Stars

A second offering in the series which this critic screened was Taste The Waste (2010), a German film by Valentin Thurn. While this film is more of a standard documentary, with conventional talking-head interviews combined with carefully filmed images of food being thrown out by the ton, it’s no less powerful. Just a couple of the facts gleaned from this film are: that every supermarket in the world throws out something like 500 to 600 tons of food each year, mostly because of retailer-set standards that have nothing to do with nutritional value or edibility (they’re more to do with cosmetic appearance and size) and that the hungry of the world could be fed three times over with what we throw away each year. There’s also striking information on “best before” dates that are used to rotate product rather than as a health advisory.  Depictions of small-hold farming villagers in Cameroon, who are being thrownoff their land for a hundred years by huge corporate banana growers, are equally harrowing. Although the film is disturbing, it also provides some hope by showing innovative projects that try to reverse some of these trends (like one in Japan which transforms food waste into animal feed for beef and pork, co-ops who try to eliminate all the travel and distribution factors between farmer and customer, a bakery which uses bio-gas for energy, as well as rooftop bee-keeping projects and gardens in New York).

Waste is a serious subject but the films in this series demonstrate that it can be tackled in as many ways as there are artistic and creative individuals in the world. A few of the other interesting entries look to be: Dirt!: The Movie (2010), narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, a film about the political, social, environmental and economic impact of soil, Kenny The Movie (2005): a humorous Australian look at a porta-pottie crew, and The Clean Bin Project (2010) a Canadian movie which asks the question, “Is it possible to live waste-free for a year?” withoptimism, humour and inspiration.

Like a magpie, the viewer can gather and glean all the films in the series, or pick and choose what they take with them. But as a little bird tells us: just be thoughtful and careful as to what you leave behind you. There are consequences.



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