[Videolib]

Steve Fesenmeier (fesenms@wvlc.lib.wv.us)
Thu, 19 Jan 2006 11:00:07 -0500

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Thoughts from John Hoskyns-Abrahall on "Do Social Documentaries =
Influence Anyone""

By Steve Fesenmaier 1.19.06

=20

=20

John Hoskyns-Abrahall, the president of America's leading environmental =
film company, Bullfrog Films, got seriously injured in a soccer accident =
10 days ago, requiring that he cancel his visit to WV to give his =
presentation, "Do Social Documentaries Influence Anyone?" However, on =
the phone today he gave me some of his thoughts on the subject.

=20

The two main films he was going to talk about are "Lovejoy's Nuclear =
War" and "Blue Vinyl," both distributed by his company of course. =
"Lovejoy" was the main film in the early Seventies that influenced =
people to protest against the deadly realities of nuclear energy. We =
all know that there was a great protest worldwide, and the reality of =
death and injury caused by nuclear energy has been largely stopped. Of =
course, everyone knows that the Bush Administration has promoted =
building the first new nuclear plants recently, as discussed in the =
influential new documentary, "Kilowatt Ours."

=20

In an e-mail, John wrote me the following-

=20

One of our first acquisitions was LOVEJOY'S NUCLEAR WAR. Sam Lovejoy was =
an activist in Western Massachusetts who was committed to stopping the =
proposed nuclear power plant that was slated for construction in his =
hometown of Montague. On the night of Washington's Birthday, February =
22nd, 1974, Sam Lovejoy took a crowbar out onto the Montague Plains and =
loosened the turnbuckles on the guy wires of a 500-foot weather testing =
tower that was the first stage of preparations for the construction of =
the new plant. He immediately turned himself in to the police and used =
his subsequent trial to present a critique of nuclear power.=20

Some of his friends in the commune he belonged to were filmmakers and =
made this film.

LOVEJOY'S NUCLEAR WAR won several prestigious awards and Sam's trial and =
the film kicked off the whole anti-nuke movement. At the time there were =
plans for 1,000 nuclear power plants in the US by the year 2000. =
Currently we have around 103.=20

=20

=20

'Blue Vinyl" is a recent masterpiece by Judith Helfand, a female Michael =
Moore, about the widespread effects on her parents, and everyone, of =
vinyl siding on their home. Thanks to this film the Habitat people =
decided to build a demonstration green and 99% vinyl-free home in =
New Orleans- before the hurricanes - and elsewhere. Apparently they =
always used vinyl siding on their homes around the US and world. After =
seeing this film and investigating the properties of vinyl siding, they =
are working to limit their use of the material.

=20

In the same e-mail, John wrote me the following-

=20

Another filmmaker for whom the subject matter is at least as important =
as her film is Judith Helfand, the host and co-director of BLUE VINYL. =
The story of the film is that her parents have decided to replace the =
rotten wood siding on their Long Island house with blue vinyl. Judith =
who had a hysterectomy at the age of 25 as a result of her mother's =
having taken DES is upset that her parents are perhaps taking on another =
chemical nightmare. So she sets out to find the truth about the world's =
most ubiquitous plastic (and one of the most toxic known to science) - =
polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl.=20

After a huge success at Sundance the film has become something of a cult =
classic because of its use of humor in service of a deadly serious =
subject.=20

Unlike many of her filmmaking colleagues, Judy considers the film the =
beginning of the process not the end. Thousands of people have committed =
to PVC reduction as a result of seeing BLUE VINYL, and vinyl will never =
again be seen as a benign material.

She started the My House is Your House campaign =
(www.myhouseisyourhouse.org). The goal is to support the growing =
national grass roots movement to transform the PVC industry so that it =
is no longer a source of environmental and human harm.

Habitat for Humanity built its first PVC-free house in New Orleans =
before Katrina and there's an effort to try to maintain that commitment =
in the huge rebuilding effort currently getting underway.

Several large institutions from universities to hospitals have committed =
to PVC-free or PVC-reduced construction and usage from now on, and now =
there's an organizing effort to persuade religious congregations to =
"build in good faith".

Joining thousands of our viewers saying "no" to vinyl are now Kaiser =
Permanente, the cities of San Francisco and Seattle, and Habitat for =
Humanity chapters around the country and more.=20

=20

John told me that Bullfrog will shortly be distributing a boxed-set of =
films by John Pilger, an English documentary filmmaker, called =
"Documentaries that changed the world." The films include his docs on =
Viet Nam, East Timor, and Cambodia. Because of his films, people in =
England, and all over the world, learned about human catastrophes for =
the first time.

=20

One further note - Ken Hechler suggested that I ask WV's own filmmaker, =
Robert Gates, to give this presentation since he has been documenting =
the effects of stripmining and mountaintop removal mining since 1977. =
Indeed, his first film," In Memory of the Land and People" was shown TO =
CONGRESS and helped them pass laws controlling stripmining. His two =
films on MTR - "All Shaken Up" and "Mucked" have also influenced many =
people including legislators in WV's state government. I have shown =
Gates' films many times, including his recent MTR films. He also =
provided footage to Mimi Pickering's first Buffalo Creek film - the key =
footage showing the actual disaster. (This same footage was used by =
CBS's 60 Minutes for their story on Jack Spadaro and by the History =
Channel for their documentary on the Buffalo Creek Disaster several =
years ago.) I chose Gates as the "WV Filmmaker of the Decade" in 1989 =
when I was director of WVLC Film Services. His films are the most =
influential made by any WV filmmaker. Hopefully he will continue to make =
new films and other WV filmmakers will join him in making films that =
influence people, not just entertain and educate them.=20

=20

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Thoughts from John=20 Hoskyns-Abrahall on =93Do Social Documentaries Influence = Anyone=94=94

By Steve Fesenmaier = 1.19.06

 

 

 

John = Hoskyns-Abrahall, the=20 president of America=92s=20 leading environmental film company, Bullfrog Films, got seriously = injured in a=20 soccer accident 10 days ago, requiring that he cancel his visit to WV to = give=20 his presentation, =93Do Social Documentaries Influence Anyone?=94 = However, on the=20 phone today he gave me some of his thoughts on the subject.

 

The two main films he = was going=20 to talk about are =93Lovejoy=92s Nuclear War=94 and =93Blue Vinyl,=94 = both distributed by=20 his company of course. =93Lovejoy=94 was the main film in the early = Seventies that=20 influenced people to protest against the deadly realities of nuclear=20 energy.  We all know that = there was=20 a great protest worldwide, and the reality of death and injury caused by = nuclear=20 energy has been largely stopped. Of course, everyone knows that the Bush = Administration has promoted building the first new nuclear plants = recently, as=20 discussed in the influential new documentary, =94Kilowatt Ours.=94

 

In an e-mail, John = wrote me the=20 following-

 

One of our first acquisitions was = LOVEJOY=92S=20 NUCLEAR WAR. Sam Lovejoy was an activist in Western=20 Massachusetts who was committed to stopping the proposed = nuclear=20 power plant that was slated for construction in his hometown of = Montague. On the=20 night of Washington's Birthday, February 22nd, 1974, Sam Lovejoy took a = crowbar=20 out onto the Montague Plains and loosened the turnbuckles on the guy = wires of a=20 500-foot weather testing tower that was the first stage of preparations = for the=20 construction of the new plant. He immediately turned himself in to the = police=20 and used his subsequent trial to present a critique of nuclear power.=20

Some of=20 his friends in the commune he belonged to were filmmakers and made this=20 film.

LOVEJOY=92S=20 NUCLEAR WAR won several prestigious awards and Sam=92s trial and the = film kicked=20 off the whole anti-nuke movement. At the time there were plans for 1,000 = nuclear=20 power plants in the US by the year 2000. = Currently we=20 have around 103.

 

 

=91Blue Vinyl=94 is a = recent=20 masterpiece by Judith Helfand, a female Michael Moore, about the = widespread=20 effects on her parents, and everyone, of vinyl siding on their home. = Thanks to=20 this film the Habitat people  =20  decided to build  a demonstration green and = 99%=20 vinyl-free home   =  in=20 New = Orleans-=20 before the hurricanes =96 and elsewhere. Apparently they always used = vinyl siding=20 on their homes around the US and world. After seeing = this film=20 and investigating the properties of vinyl siding, they   are working to limit  =  their use of the material.

 

In the=20 same e-mail, John wrote me the following-

 

Another=20 filmmaker for whom the subject matter is at least as important as her = film is=20 Judith Helfand, the host and co-director of BLUE VINYL. The story of the = film is=20 that her parents have decided to replace the rotten wood siding on their = Long Island house with blue vinyl. = Judith who=20 had a hysterectomy at the age of 25 as a result of her mother=92s having = taken DES=20 is upset that her parents are perhaps taking on another chemical = nightmare. So=20 she sets out to find the truth about the world=92s most ubiquitous = plastic (and=20 one of the most toxic known to science) =96 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or = vinyl.=20

After a huge success at Sundance the film has = become=20 something of a cult classic because of its use of humor in service of a = deadly=20 serious subject.

Unlike many of her filmmaking colleagues, Judy = considers=20 the film the beginning of the process not the end. Thousands of people = have=20 committed to PVC reduction as a result of seeing BLUE VINYL, and vinyl = will=20 never again be seen as a benign material.

She started the My House is Your House campaign=20 (www.myhouseisyourhouse.org). The goal is to support the growing national = grass roots=20 movement to transform the PVC industry so that it is no longer a source = of=20 environmental and human harm.

Habitat for Humanity built its first PVC-free = house in=20 New = Orleans=20 before Katrina and there=92s an effort to try to maintain that = commitment in the=20 huge rebuilding effort currently getting underway.

Several large institutions from universities to = hospitals=20 have committed to PVC-free or PVC-reduced construction and usage from = now on,=20 and now there=92s an organizing effort to persuade religious = congregations to=20 "build in good faith".

Joining thousands of our viewers saying "no" to = vinyl are=20 now Kaiser Permanente, the cities of San=20 Francisco and Seattle, and Habitat for = Humanity chapters=20 around the country and more.=20

 

 

John told me that = Bullfrog will=20 shortly be distributing a boxed-set of films by John Pilger, an English=20 documentary filmmaker, called =93Documentaries that changed the = world.=94 The films=20 include his docs on Viet = Nam,=20 East Timor, and Cambodia. Because of his = films,=20 people in England, and all over the = world,=20 learned about human catastrophes for the first time.

 

One further note =96 = Ken Hechler=20 suggested that I ask WV=92s own filmmaker, Robert Gates, to give this = presentation=20 since he has been documenting the effects of stripmining and mountaintop = removal=20 mining since 1977. Indeed, his first film,=94 In Memory of the Land and = People=94=20 was shown TO CONGRESS and helped them pass laws controlling = stripmining.  His two films on MTR =96 = =93All Shaken Up=94=20 and =93Mucked=94 have also influenced many people including legislators = in WV=92s=20 state government. I have shown Gates=92 films many times, including his = recent MTR=20 films. He also provided footage to Mimi Pickering=92s first Buffalo = Creek film =96=20 the key footage showing the actual disaster. (This same footage was used = by=20 CBS=92s 60 Minutes for their story on Jack Spadaro and by the History = Channel for=20 their documentary on the Buffalo Creek Disaster several years ago.) I = chose=20 Gates as the =93WV Filmmaker of the Decade=94 in 1989 when I was = director of WVLC=20 Film Services. His films are the most influential made by any WV = filmmaker.=20 Hopefully he will continue to make new films and other WV filmmakers = will join=20 him in making films that influence people, not just entertain and = educate them.=20

 

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