|Discovering Green activism|
within cultural roots.
Dir. Chihiro Geuzebroek
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Amongst all the documentaries dealing with environmental activism, director Chihiro Geuzebroek has hit upon a winning formula to detail something that's so often rendered with the sledgehammer of didacticism. First of all, she's the subject of the film, a personal journey undertaken by a cute, plucky "little Dutch girl" (of Bolivian heritage) which, frankly, goes a long way to rendering a picture that's not merely palatable, but includes a wealth of information in an agreeable, entertaining fashion. Secondly, the movie is equal parts earnestness and humour, the latter of which comes mostly from Geuzebroek herself and in sufficient quantity (and quality) to temper the potentially deadly effects of the former. Finally, the film really kicks in when it focuses upon her personal journey that's as much tied into exploring cultural roots as it is devoted to becoming the best activist she can possibly be.
Setting up her "thesis" as quickly as possible, delivering a smattering of her life and ideals and setting up her trip to Bolivia, all blasts along amiably and soon we're plunged into the meat of her journey proper as she allows us to follow her travels in the country she was not born in, but is quickly falling in love with as she connects with the country's progressively green approach to governance and also, uniting with her extended family. Experiencing Bolivia's environmental victories as well as its challenges on the Green front are all through Geuzebroek's eyes as she discovers them for herself. Scenes with her family are ultimately the most powerful and moving of all. On their on, they'd be plenty affecting, but against the environmental backdrop, they're positively heart-wrenching. The movie occasionally relies too heavily upon a series of cutesy-pie chalkboard-style animation that occasionally drove me right up the wall. I'll grudgingly concede others might not be quite so intolerant of them as I and in fact, might derive considerable pleasure from their overly jaunty, uh, quality.
Alas, these animated sequences border on the whimsical and compel me to be desirous of punching someone in the face. In fairness, though, I'll quote from James Cagney's character in Raoul Walsh's Strawberry Blonde: "That's just the kind of hairpin I am."
The film's denouement is somewhat unsatisfying if only because of the direction the journey genuinely takes. As a filmmaker, Geuzebroek gives it the old college try and put a positive spin on what happens, but a little part of me wished she'd ended her film before that, or perhaps waited to finish it if and when a more satisfying turn of events transpired. As the film is right now, it's kind of begging for a sequel. That might have even been the intent. If so, I do look forward to it.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3 Stars
Radical Friends plays during Toronto's 2014 Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival. The filmmaker will be present for the screening. For further information, check out the festival's website HERE.
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