Thursday 24 April 2014

DIVIDE IN CONCORD - Review By Greg Klymkiw - HOT DOCS 2014 - Film Details the Important Environmental Revolution in America led by an 84-Year-Old Granny in the heart of where the American Revolution began.

1775 - Concord, Massachusetts - The Shot Heard Round The World

Divide in Concord
(2014) Dir. Kris Kaczor ***1/2
Review By Greg Klymkiw

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Throughout the 20th Century, the quaint burgh of Concord, Massachusetts was as peaceful and bucolic as the late 19th Century when Henry David Thoreau experienced and eloquently wrote about nearby Walden Pond, bringing environmental concerns into the consciousness of thinking people the world over.

It wasn't always this way, though.

In 1775 the famous "shot heard round the world" rang out there, signalling the beginning of the American Revolution. As such, its cairns, monuments and flags waving in the wind are ultimately representative of America's sanguineous birth.

The 21st Century, however, yielded the firing of an altogether new shot in this fancifully historic tourist-magnet and one that will, no doubt, be heard round the world thanks to Divide in Concord, an inspiring and vital feature documentary by Kris Kaczor. Focusing upon the trigger finger belonging to the unlikeliest of all candidates to lead an altogether new Blue Coat charge, the film's protagonist Jean Hill looks, at first glance, like she'd be more at ease baking pies for the church, knitting sweaters for loved ones and presiding over quilting bees. These stereotypes melt away as we follow her tenacious battle to get her hometown to become a leader in the beginnings of an environmental revolution that will ban the sale of single-serve plastic bottles of water.

Jill Appel and Jean Hill
2012 - Concord, Massachusetts
Hit the World With Their Best Shot
Jean Hill, the octogenarian Mom and Granny is a firebrand. She's aided by her young friend, lawyer Jill Appel in going up against a massive corporate lobby, downright hostile Concord citizenry and stubborn retailers who are blind to the blight of plastic bottle pollution outside of the narrow parameters of greed and convenience. Jean Hill believes Concord can become an important example to other communities and get the ball rolling on eradicating what is, perhaps, the most egregious contribution to pollution from plastic bottles. Jean Hill is 110% right on this. What is the point of manufacturing, selling and consuming single serving bottles of WATER. Water, for God's sake, the elixir of life. How can something so pure and nourishing be contained in these environmentally hazardous receptacles?

As a philanthropist, a mommy,
a model, a celebrity publicist and an
I believe in choice and I choose
For me, it's not rocket science. I was on Jean's side within seconds of hearing her plea in the film. Not that I've ever wasted money on single serving plastic bottles of anything. Being a cheap Ukrainian, I believe in filtered tap water, one's own non-plastic receptacle to place it in and for other beverages, the bigger the receptacle, the CHEAPER it is to buy. (As well, for much of the year, I consume nice fresh well water when I'm up at the farm and away from the filthy concrete hole that Toronto is.)

For two years running, Jean has unsuccessfully presented a bylaw to the municipal council during an open town hall assembly. That said, her second bid was lost by a mere seven votes. She feels like 2012 is her year to help Concord make history by being the first community in the world to ban the sale of single bottles. Given how close she came to winning in 2011, her adversaries not only bare their sharpened fangs and claws, but they're going to use them.

The movie's villains are, on one hand, faceless corporations represented by the ominous sounding International Bottled Water Association which uses all its money and power to mount a huge marketing and publicity campaign against Jean. The real antagonist is embodied by a kind of Yummy-Mommy Cruella De Ville, one Adriana Cohen. Her place in this world, in the following order, is thus: Philanthropist, mother, model and celebrity publicist. Let's ignore the last three. They're not that significant for our discussion, save maybe for the "publicist" part, which comes in mighty handy when she chews Jean to bits on a right-wing talk radio show. In all reality, though, it's the "Philanthropist" label that irks me. Who in this world can even begin to identify themselves as a "Philanthropist" first?

Uh, like, rich people, eh.

And, wow! What a mouthpiece for privilege this woman turns out to be. Like some broken record she keeps spouting the same tune: that the rights of Americans to have and make choices are paramount over Hill's environmental concerns. At one point she even argues that if people are against the use of single-serving plastic bottles they can make the choice not to buy them. Yeah, right on, babe! Kinda like homeless people, right? They can make the choice NOT to be homeless.


The ebbs and flows of this battle are exhaustively captured, yet smartly and pointedly edited into a thoroughly captivating true-life drama. Surprises abound, but so do a few shockers. The movie genuinely hits us in the solar plexus with the sort of things that dazzlingly raise us up, but also drag us down.

Divide in Concord is yet another important film in the ongoing canon of environmental feature documentaries, but in some ways, it cleverly places itself at the beginnings of a movement that must truly expand - not to just single-serving plastic bottles, but to the horrendous, disposable use of plastic and not just in a small community like Concord, but worldwide. The film presents some pretty irrefutable evidence as to how our world is being destroyed by these useless receptacles. Many of us know this. We know that much of the plastic is NOT properly recycled. We also know it's one of a myriad of things that are going to kill the world (and in so doing, all of humanity).

Sadly, too many are ignorant to this, but even worse are those who would dare place convenience and profits before survival. Jean Hill is a Saint. And this, is her story.

Divide in Concord is enjoying its World Premiere at Hot Docs 2014. For ticket, time, venue and playdate information, please visit the festival's website HERE.