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‘Windfall’ Goes to Washington (Industrial wind turbines without Photoshop)

[Editor's note: Windaction's executive director, Lisa Linowes, attended the March 19 DC premier of Laura Israel's documentary, Windfall. Her report follows.]

“Windfall” made its premier showing in Washington DC last month at the Environmental Film Festival. This was the festival’s 19th year, and the theme — exploring the critical relationship between energy and the environment — was perfect for Laura Israel’s documentary.

I’ve had the pleasure of accompanying Laura to several screenings of “Windfall” over the past ten months. The format for each event is similar and always interesting. Prior to the lights dimming, Laura is introduced along with others who helped make “Windfall”. Following the film’s credits, the audience is invited to participate in a 15–20 minute question and answer period. When I’m available, Laura and I field questions together.

I thoroughly enjoy working with Laura and we understand how to complement each other on stage. I know to stay clear of questions having to do with the making of Windfall, and she and I trade off on questions relating to energy policy, wind development, and community impacts.

Washington, D.C. Showing

We arrived at the theatre about thirty minutes before the 5:00 pm showing to find a line already forming at the entrance. This had to have been an exciting moment for Laura to see her posters advertising Windfall along the walls and watching people streaming into the theater’s lobby. That day’s edition of the Washington Post carried Ann Hornaday’s review of Windfall which was a big plus. The review was better than we could have imagined! Ms. Hornaday likened Windfall to Gasland’s ‘grass-roots tour’ and envisioned similar success.

For me, the Washington venue stood out for two additional reasons. It was the first time I had a chance to watch Windfall in a large theatre setting, the historic AFI Silver Theatre. What a treat! The sounds and visuals were more vibrant and the characters in the film seemed more alive.

In this setting, I fully appreciated what Laura saw in her mind’s eye when she set out to create her film. Washington was also my first opportunity to experience Windfall in an urban setting. This would not be a “preach to the choir” moment. Most of the 250+ who attended that night never faced the prospect of industrial wind development in their community. And many were hearing a side of wind they had never heard before. I wasn’t sure what reaction to expect.

Before the film, several people approached us in the lobby wanting to thank Laura for making Windfall. Another asked if I was available to speak at his church the next morning. A colleague of mine came by, held up a flier he was handed at the door, and mentioned that “Windfall” was agitating a few people. Turns out, the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) vice president for public affairs, Peter Kelley, was outside overseeing his unpaid (we asked) volunteers as they distributed a rehashed press piece purporting to “set the record straight on a few issues that the movie raises.”

It wasn’t the first time AWEA showed up at a Windfall screening, and likely won’t be the last. Still, it was interesting to witness such insecurity coming from the wind industry.

Q&A Period

After the film, there were a lot of thoughtful questions.

Several folks wondered why the United States could not recreate the success of wind energy touted in Denmark (Denmark’s wind “success” is not as many have been led to believe. Denmark’s energy needs are a fraction of what’s needed by the U.S. and the amount of wind generated in the country poorly matches that actually consumed. The heavily subsidized generation typically comes during low load conditions and is dumped on other countries at low rates.)

One gentleman expressed surprise at how little he knew of the issues with wind and asked whether the mainstream media was reporting on the story. (While the New York Times and Associated Press have carried stories, in most cases the debate is treated as a local issue and covered by small town media.)

Laura was asked why the wind developer looking to build in Meredith, NY did not appear in the film. (Representatives for the company tended to work quietly behind the scenes. They did not attend public meetings or participate in open forums. If they had, Laura would have captured them on film. )

Clearly, the eco-documentary triggered strong emotions in the audience. The questions continued for another forty-five minutes in the lobby of the theatre. Several people approached us about wind energy in general. They understood from Windfall that large-scale centrally planned wind projects might pose problems but wanted some assurance that personal turbines or smaller, community options could still work. Their sense of disappointment in our energy choices was evident — and who could blame them?

Conclusion

Laura is always careful to tell people that “Windfall” is not meant to answer all questions about wind or to even take a side. Her message is to encourage communities to seek out as much information as possible and to reach informed decisions.

I agree, and would add that the energy debate in the U.S. has not been well grounded in fact particularly as it applies to green energy. The more the public understands the realities of our energy choices, only then can we get on with encouraging solutions that meet our environmental and economic goals.

If you have an opportunity to see “Windfall” in a theatre near you, I would encourage you to do so, regardless your view of wind energy. The visuals are mesmerizing and the story will inspire and inform. I’ve seen the film at least ten times, and the experience is new and different each time.

Visit the Windfall website for the latest news on screenings.

6 comments

1 David Schnare { 04.04.11 at 9:57 am }

The movie puts wind on trial in a media outlet. Some of us are doing it in court. See atinstitute.org for a copy of our complaint and the technical underpinnings. We filed on April 4th in the U.S. District Court in Denver Colorado.

2 rbradley { 04.04.11 at 2:37 pm }

Tomorrow’s post at MasterResource by Tom Tanton will cover the aforementioned lawsuit challenging Colorado’s renewable energy mandate.

3 Jon Boone { 04.04.11 at 3:11 pm }

Thanks, David. Good work. And I’ll look forward to Tom Tanton’s post tomorrow.

And thank you, Lisa, for trying to get news of wind’s incivility into the mainstream media….

4 Ron { 04.09.11 at 12:04 pm }

This video wasn’t photoshopped — gimme a break! Those turbines would have to have been within a thousand feet to throw shadows on the wall like that If turbines were allowed that close, then the municipalitywas remiss in preparing a proper wind turbine ordinance.

This documentary is classic propaganda designed to strike fear in the hearts of citizens. But you’ll evidently keep doing your thing, as unpatriotic and selfserving (how much from the coal and gas people subsidized your production) as you are.

5 Jon Boone { 04.10.11 at 11:08 pm }

“Ron”:
Your ignorant ad hominemism deserve no “break.” That you resort to the last refuge of scoundrels in attempting to conflate both the film and Lisa Linowes with unpatriotic gore is despicable. And disgusting. Wind is the dumbest modern power idea imaginable, an additive, drunken energy source made possible because it enlarges fossil fuel marketshare. King Coal loves wind. Natural gas is intimately involved with it in a sordid, very worldly way.

Wind is demonstrably uncivil, as my own documentary made clear some years ago. The Windfall production crew had the skills and resources to much more fully articulate how Life Under a Windplant (http://www.stopillwind.org/lowerlevel.php?content=Downloads_Video) is actually lived.

It’s patriots like you, Ken Lay, and Jeff Immelt that make enlightened discourse so difficult. And speaking of self serving pandering, which applies neither to me, Linowes, or Laura Israel, since none of us have any ties with energy corporations and, in my own case, have often chided the arrogance of coal and natural gas, hiding your identity behind a timorous blogger’s moniker bespeaks a déclassé sense of virtue and an agenda not entirely your own.

6 Anne { 12.11.11 at 6:53 pm }

Dear Ron, if you are still out there,
I saw “Windfall” several months ago but can’t remember the specific scene you describe with the shadow on the wall. I can tell you, however, that we have a 400 foot turbine about 1500 feet away from our house and it casts a moving shadow across our entire property, including our bedroom and dining room walls, every morning for two or three months. We have an acre of timber (mature oak, hickory, etc. trees) in between us and the turbine that does not stop the shadow flicker or the noise, so the offer by the power company to provide us with landscaping is a joke. I pity our neighbors who are surrounded by turbines–they can never escape the noise or shadows (except when the turbines are sitting still and not producing, which is often). Living in an area that has several wind “farms” already and two more proposed, I can tell you that the movie is extremely accurate.

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