PLANET IN FOCUS: INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL through Sunday (October 28). Various locations. 416-967-1528, www.planetinfocus.org. Rating: NNNNN
Thanks in part to Al Gore's wide-reaching inconvenient truths, we're all a lot more concerned about the future of our planet. Which makes the Planet In Focus film and video festival feel like an event whose time has really come.
Most of these relevant films probably won't get theatrical runs. Here's a chance to see them all at once, rather than having to track them down later on public broadcasting networks or DVDs, if they make it there at all.
One of the best is the awkwardly titled Gambit (Rating: NNNN , screens Saturday October 27, 7:30 pm, Innis Town Hall), director Sabine Gisiger 's look at the fallout from the 1976 explosion of a chemical reactor in the small town of Seveso, Italy.
It's a complicated story involving a decades-old tragedy, confusing chemical formulae (some of which we see onscreen) and layers of bureaucracy in the Swiss-owned Hoffman-La Roche pharmaceutical conglomerate.
At the centre is Jºrg Sambeth, technical director of a company called Givaudon, who was responsible for the Icmesa plant in Seveso. Gisiger focuses on the proud, upright and still striking Sambeth as he recounts his life with the company before and after the disaster.
It's a tragic story of a company man taking the hit for the big corporation, and we see the effects on his children and his wife, who died of cancer during Sambeth's trial.
The fact that Sambeth's father was involved with the Nazi party might seem gratuitous, but it adds another surprising element to a story that's full of surprises, right up to the final 10 minutes. Gambit's a mystery story with elements of horror because it really happened and could happen again.
Mr. Wong's World (Rating: NNN , screens Thursday, October 25, 7:30 pm, Innis Town Hall) introduces us to another mysterious character with a unique relationship to his environment. Jeffrey Wong is a wealthy Chinese-Canadian businessman in his 60s living in Shanghai who spends his time buying up old buildings, taking them apart for their rare architectural details and then transplanting them to the small town of Tongli.
His Hong Kong family doesn't understand why he spends time with what they term "garbage," and the Chinese authorities are suspicious of a so-called foreigner tampering with their culture. Only a German photographer and a Chinese journalist seem to understand what he's up to.
Director Christian Schidlowski doesn't quite know how to structure the story, and some scenes feel loose and unnecessary. But he does deliver a look at the human and cultural cost of China's booming industrial growth.
And the incredibly youthful Wong, singing karaoke and flirting with women half his age, comes across as a happy, hopeful spirit who doesn't know why he's doing what he's doing, just that it has some significance to the earth.