Thursday, February 23, 2012

Director Pete McGrain talks about the inspiration behind his film "Ethos"

The signs that there is something wrong with our system are everywhere and with the internet we can easily see each new environmental or humanitarian catastrophe around the world happening in real time. When I stop to consider the amazing things the human race is capable of and then compare that to the world we have created I see this massive gap. There is so much unnecessary destruction and suffering.

Ethos, in many ways a distillation, was an attempt to draw an overview of the systemic mechanisms that shape our world and how they connect. None of the ideas in the film are new and I am not so much standing on the shoulders of giants, but rather crawling humbly at the feet of the many great thinkers and filmmakers whose work contributed to this film. But hopefully, for example, drawing a direct line between the manipulation of consumerism portrayed in Alan Curtis's Century of the Self, and the Military Industrial Complex of Eugene Jarecki's Why we fight, thus connecting the dots between corporate foreign plundering and our societies insatiable consumer appetite, was useful . I think we can begin to see the part that each and every one of us plays and the responsibility we all bare.

When I began the film I wanted to point the finger, to blame, and while it is easy to do that it is still 'our' consumerism that drives all of this, that causes the wars, the pollution and the waste. Yes, we have been and are still manipulated but I find this is a very weak defense for an adult in the 21st Century. It is our responsibility as adults to learn the facts and act accordingly and hopefully this film will provoke these questions and keep the debate rolling.

Lastly, I wanted to try and defeat the helplessness that so many people feel and offer a tangible way for people to get involved and make a real difference. Right now money is all powerful in our system. Once you understand that all money/wealth/power is derived from consumerism it is only a small leap to recognize the incredible power of our consumer choices to bring change.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Interview with Steve Kroschel about his film "The Beautiful Truth" and the politics of curing cancer

(re-printed from the NYC Movie Guru)

NYC MOVIE GURU: What kind of experience do you have in health activism?

SK: I’ve never been an activist in the health field, although I've always been steadfast about supporting any environmental cause that makes this world a better, healthier place. Since I was a small child, I did appearances with wild animals, even in New York on The Today Show and on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. As I got older, I started to make the connection between human health and the environment. That, I thought, would be a huge thread that could tie in a wide audience. That’s where Dr. Max Gerson came into play.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Which distributors did you approach before The Beautiful Truth ended up at Cinema Libre Studio? How did they respond to you?

SK: Paramount Vantage, Fox and Sony saw it and said that this was such a liability [to them] that they don’t even want to consider it. They didn’t quite know where to put the film because it was just in a class of its own. Then you’ve got this brave, dynamic little distributor, Cinema Libre, and they just loved it. We had an instantly positive relationship once they saw the film.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you manage to find the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them intellectually?

SK: I’ve been a filmmaker for 20 years, mainly for the BBC and National Geographic, and that’s like preaching to the choir. That’s a limited audience. I have been involved with several major studios in films that went wide, but they weren’t about health. I did learn over time that a film about cancer and chronic disease could be very dry and unsatisfying to an audience unless you had a good story. That’s why I would try that angle, especially since my 15-year-old son was so doubtful about this message being truly real.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why do you think the majority of the American public has so much apathy toward their own health?

SK: Dr. Max Gerson said himself that, “Cancer is easy to cure. The problem is that it’s in people.” He also went on to say that, unless the surgeon’s knife is at their throat, they will not follow his message. It’s just something innate in us, I think, that we want to self-destruct. I think people are their own worst enemies. You can take someone to court if they spit on your shoe, but [yet], if we eat the wrong [food] every day, it’s like we’re stabbing ourselves with our spoons and forks and knives that we have at the kitchen table. It’s still a bit mystifying to me why people remained unconcerned. Also, so many in the past “claimed” that they have a cure and can defeat cancer and chronic disease because, after all, some of those that have tried it in the past, were just a big joke and were called quacks. Then you have the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry that is always updating their progress in curing diseases. There’s an incredulous nature in us, too, and that just drives me more to make this film attractive to everybody.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you respond to the common public response that “everything should be in moderation”?

SK: The way our bodies are designed are for us to eat in a certain way. We have violated that time and time again. What is so extreme about eating a baked potato and drinking a glass of vegetable juice when you compare it to the orthodox, conventional treatment of breast cancer by cutting a woman’s breast off the save her from cancer? Which one is extreme? Dr. Max Gerson was all about the baked potato and the vegetable juice; conventional medicine and Big Pharma are about drugs that are completely unnatural [and] as we’ve discovered, i.e. Vioxx it sometimes kills 50,000 people, or about taking out people’s organs while still not curing their disease.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why don’t mainstream media help to expose such important cover-ups?

SK: Look at the nightly news, for example. It’s supported by corporations that are promoting drugs. I don’t have a television up here in my Alaskan cabin, but the last time I looked at a TV at an airport in Juneau, the advertisements were all about drugs. Most of the drugs advertised in these commercials are promoting an answer for something, whether it be a headache or insomnia, with a drug. Dr. Max Gerson’s therapy alone would cure that and you wouldn’t have to buy anything. The only way that the mainstream media will be finding something like this attractive is if the people vote. [Democracy] would be [occurring] by going to see this film and examining it for yourself. You just have to dig under all the crud of everyday media and find the real truth, the beautiful truth. The science is there. The facts are there. It’s undeniable and can be scrutinized right down to the letter. It is a real thing that’s never really been picked up.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Are food, beverage, hygiene and drug corporations as well as the FDA and other agencies, such as the American Dietetic Association, part of a cover-up of crucial information that’s relevant to consumer health?

SK: There’s absolutely a cover-up. They don’t want to talk. We contacted Monsanto, ConAgra and a number of food companies. Most of them wouldn’t even return our calls and when we repeatedly went after ConAgra and Monsanto, they just bullied us. It was nothing that I had expected otherwise, but I lived it out. We went to the ConAgra facility as a last effort, but we were pushed away right at the gate. If they do talk, they have prepared statements. It’s nothing off-the-cuff. They won’t tell you the truth, but I wanted them to. I wanted them to speak. I tried to make it a balanced film. What you see in this documentary is the truth. It’s Garrett’s journey. Garrett still today can’t believe what he saw with his own eyes.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did the FDA respond to you?

SK: They didn’t give us any response. We had to go with the printed word that was available in libraries and various other sources. We did include, at one point, a comparison between Monsanto’s explanation of genetically modified food and their position on it that the FDA is supposed to determine what’s healthy and safe to eat. Garrett showed that statement from the head of Monsanto and then we also had a statement directly from the FDA which stated that ultimately it is the food producer who is responsible for the safety of food. Those two statements side-to-side should pretty much erase the confidence of the general public that the FDA is looking out for their health.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Who should ultimately be held accountable? The cheaters or the administration(s) that allow them to cheat?

SK: They all have to be held accountable, but maybe that’s hoping for a perfect world. In reality, we have to hold up the hope that the public can put enough pressure on government agencies to reexamine their policies and to take a different path. Ten years ago, this might not have been so urgent, but at this stage of history, with the degradation of the environment, we have to move fast now because we have reached a milestone in human history. If we do not pay attention to these “tiny” details of what we eat everyday, we are not going to leave a healthy legacy for our children. What kind of a future do we have for them? I have a very difficult time keeping a positive message for young people. When I presentations about the natural world at schools, it’s becoming increasingly harder to convince young people that they have a future. Many think that there’s not going to be any clean air to breathe or clean water to drink and they’re 25-years-old. It goes on and on. You can see clearly in the last ten years, that what we have taken for granted in the food we eat and the water we drink, that so much has changed. There are so many toxins everywhere now that we have to make a change whether we like it or not.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you expect the public to react to the exposures of all these health cover-ups?

SK: Enraged to the point of action and not just talking about it. Write letters to congress, vote in the right way and get educated and learn about these things. With the advent of the internet now, there’s so much information and disinformation out there. You’ve got to do the homework. Your health and life depends on it. We have no time to waste. Things have reached a crescendo. That’s why I made this film, virtually, singlehandedly because I want to get the public aware of what’s going on. Dr. Max Gerson warned about this 80 years ago. He said that the soil is our external metabolism. What’s happening to our soil and our farmlands? There’s nothing left in the soil that grows our food. When you add all the chemicals and everything else to it, no wonder everybody’s sick. No wonder that every one out of two people get cancer.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that history is repeating itself like what happened during the cigarette and tobacco industry cover-up?

SK: History is repeating itself because we are just too complacent to a fault.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What agencies can the public truly rely on to protect their health?

SK: One of the best ones is The Natural Resource and Defense Council which has attorneys that leverage our basic rights to put pressure on these companies, including Monsanto. Then, you can go to the Sierra Club, The World Wildlife Foundation, The National Health Federation and National Health Freedom. If you go onto any of those links, then you can start to network, learn the truth and get yourself educated.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What does the word “Natural” mean when stated on a product?

SK: Natural doesn’t mean anything anymore. It has to be organic. Natural popcorn can have arsenic dust on it, but it’s still natural [based on the FDA’s definition of natural]. Organic popcorn is free of chemical sprays and poisons. Natural, conventionally grown vegetables would not be that way. Organic crops have all of the nutritional minerals thought our body needs. Also, [the term] “natural” could include genetically modified foods, which are far from natural, but they still fall under the [FDA’s definition] of being natural. It’s a very misleading term and it has worn out its welcome. No one is really following it. Virtually all food manufacturers know better, but they still print out their promotional ads with a straight face and that’s very, very sad. There’s a few [manufacturers] that try [to be honest], but, [again], “natural” is a very misleading term.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What’s stopping the FDA from directly answering questions about such important health matters?

SK: The FDA is owned by food and pharmaceutical companies. As a matter of fact, in the The Beautiful Truth, we show you names of people who have worked on both sides. Some who have worked for the FDA also have worked for Monsanto. It goes back and forth, so you have what’s called a “revolving door”. Garrett just touched on it in his homework lesson, [but] it’s so pathetic and shocking that people won’t be able to believe it [even though] it is the truth. Do the research that Garrett did. He’s 15-years-old. If he could do it, then most of us could do it.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Should the American public trust the FDA?

SK: No. There’s this inside pressure from the corporate giants who control and the FDA is merely a puppet. Herbert Lay, the former Commissioner of the FDA, himself said, “The thing that bugs me is that people think the FDA is protecting them. It isn’t. What the FDA is doing and what the public thinks it’s doing are as different as night and day.”

NYC MOVIE GURU: What will it take for the FDA to finally face the music about all the health cover-ups?

SK: The only thing is going to make a difference is public pressure, to stop buying those kinds of products, and to refuse to accept drugs as a treatment for our chronic diseases. [We should] refuse the various kinds of foods that are truly poisoning us and [should] buy whole foods that are organic and healthy. We should look seriously at alternative forms of treatment for cancer and chronic disease. There are a number of them and they have been ignored. The Gerson Therapy is one of the main ones, it has been tried and proved for eight decades.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What will it take for corporations to truly listen to the public?

SK: If money is the bottom line, then money is what speaks, apparently. When they start to lose it and people start to get educated about it and demand a change, then it can happen. We’re at a very great turning point where we have the internet and we’re able to communicate very rapidly. It worked so fantastically in our latest elections, for example.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How could doctors, employees of corporations and of government agencies live with themselves and behave in such an amoral way yet still have a conscience? Don’t they care about their family and friends?

SK: Some of them do [have a conscience]. Doctors and their families, [though], [rarely serve as] participants in using chemotherapy to treat [their own] cancer. They know better than that. There’s an example of the industry saying one thing, but doing another. Many of those who work for Monsanto don’t have that information. If they do, then they’re blind and can’t believe it themselves. Money speaks, so they’re willing to work there. It’s their living and that’s that. Do any of us really know how the executives of these companies truly live? Adolf Hitler, for example, kidnapped Dr. Max Gerson and followed The Gerson Therapy himself. He did not want the rest of the people to eat that way because they couldn’t control them. These are historical facts. What the general public does is different from the way that the heads and families of these corporations do themselves. There has been a great deal of inquiry and investigation into that and we’re learning things about. Coca-Cola and some of these soft drinks, for example, are not really part of the lunch period for some of the employees at various soft drink factories. They know that it’s not good for you.

NYC MOVIE GURU: In her response to inquiries about what she products she asked from the Republican National Committee, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin replied that, “I only asked for a Diet Dr. Pepper once in a while.” Does her consumption of that diet pop soda have any harmful effects on her health?

SK: Yes, it does because drinking those kinds of fluids clouds our minds, so we can’t respond right, because they have excitotoxins that destroy our brain cells. A simple act of drinking a Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper, which is one of the worst, can actually make us dumber. We’re getting dumbed down by the food and beverages that we eat and drink. So, we’re turning into a bunch of sheep. Adolf Hitler tried to do that with fluoride. He tried to control and sterilize the public by putting fluoride in their water, and [a similar thing] is happening right now.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Dr. Robert Atkins once said that “There have been many cancer cures and all have been ruthlessly and systematically suppressed with a Gestapo-like thoroughness by the cancer establishment”. Do you think that government agencies along with food, beverage and drug corporations are truly Gestapo-like?

SK: It’s even a soft word for what it actually is. Look at what’s happening to our healthcare. People are being killed [by drugs and diseases] needlessly, and there’s the suppression of natural treatments and answers, like The Gerson Therapy, to cancer and chronic diseases. Charlotte Gerson lived through the Holocaust and Dr. Max Gerson’s siblings were all killed in the Holocaust while she fled Nazi persecution. According to her, what’s happening now is worse than the Holocaust. She compares the whole healthcare system. It’s such a big issue in our world as to who’s going to pay for the drugs and surgery, but, basically, if you eat right, that is your healthcare. Doing something as simple and innocent as that can be your healthcare, so that, biologically, you cannot get cancer. Let’s say you were in fallout from a nuclear explosion, you will not be able to get cancer. Charlotte Gerson does not even have health insurance because she’s afraid that if she goes to a hospital, they’ll kill her. The errors that have been done by physicians every day in America alone is equivalent to three jumbo jets full of people crashing every day. Consumer health advocate and author Kevin Trudeau has done a lot of good to expose that. He’s exploiting all of that for great advantage.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you reform the FDA if you were its Commissioner?

SK: They shouldn’t be allowed to work for the corporations that they’re supposed to regulate at one time or another, for starters. They should be just, blind and holding the scale. The evidence needs to speak for itself. There needs to be independent research done that does not have the residue of any kind of drug, food or beverage companies. It should be done with true science and true testing, where science is living up to what it’s supposed to be. That’s long gone, so we need to come back to that.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Have there been any talks to make a narrative feature film about The Gerson Therapy?

SK: Firefly Productions in the UK is making a $40 million movie [about it]. They want Daniel Craig to play Dr. Max Gerson, they’re approaching Rachel Weisz to play Charlotte Gerson and they’re pushing Ron Howard to direct it. The production company is so afraid that they’re going to be accused of bias by contacting the Gerson family or giving us a single penny. The Gerson family has warned them that they are in for quite the ride if they tackle this movie.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Zakary Zide talks about his inspiration for the "EarthDance Short Attention Span Environmental Film Festival"

The EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Collection features an award-winning collection of the most inspiring, provocative, passionate, playful and funny environmental stories this side of a three-toed sloth.
 Complete with hand drawn and computer animations, documentaries, action adventures and comedies, the EarthDance Films Collection is both a serious and light-hearted exploration of nature, culture and environmental design. EarthDance is not your average film festival. I like that. And fortunately, it seems that other people like our quirkiness too! We've always believed that you shouldn't have to sacrifice entertainment for ecology. Our films are selected on the basis of being both entertaining and informative.

People like good stories, for good reason. I'm not a fan of sensationalism, but I do appreciate an entertaining story that has a meaningful message. I think this explains the popularity of such films as Super Size Me, and Michael Moore's documentaries. I think too many TV shows and films with important messages to tell get caught up in a scripted narrative, or else frighten or bore their audiences to death. There are so many different ways that people relate to the natural world - from the hunter or the vegetarian. I'm interested in telling everyone's story.

We intentionally cast a wide net. This is another reason why I felt like the Short-Attention-Span nature of the film fest was essential - variety. People's time is short and as great of a film as Who Killed the Electric Car is, not everyone wants to sit through 90 minutes of one eco-themed story. We wanted to include more people and expand the conversation. We've found that people really appreciate our variety. We often hear that our collection is "not what we expected, and that's a good thing." We look for personal stories that have not been told before; quirky, inspirational, and generally non-political. And of course, they have to be 30 seconds to 30 minutes in length.

EarthDance Films has been a real gift in my life. It has given me a chance to meet and work with incredibly talented people and interesting audiences from all over the world. It has also made me a better curator and editor. I am grateful for the opportunity to help build community and (hopefully) inspire some people along the way!

--Zak Zide

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Director's Statement from Singeli Agnew and Joshua Fisher about "Pollen Nation"

From the beginning, we were interested in the idea of a science film that felt more like an American road movie. It was also clear to us that this was not just a story about bees and a little known migratory subculture, but a much larger tale about agriculture, and the human relationship with the natural world.

We started Pollen Nation in the fall of 2006, well before the news of a great bee die-off swept through the media. In the middle of production, two of our characters - Jeff Anderson and Dave Hackenberg - lost a substantial number of hives to what later became known as colony collapse disorder. We were suddenly in the midst of a national story, one which had been developing for years but which most people thought was brand new. Meanwhile the beekeepers had their heads in their hives simply trying to keep themselves in business. For many, this was just another setback in a long string of troubles.

What struck us about the news, and the public anxiety that followed, is that there was a great focus on finding a single culprit. After delving into the issues it was clear that there was not an isolated solution – identifying a pest, eliminating GM crops or a specific pesticide. This was a chronic problem, intimately connected to the demands of industrial agriculture that sustain our food economy. The beekeepers, in their struggle to keep their businesses alive, are caught in a cycle of short-term fixes that is leading to the long-term collapse of the honeybee. And modern agriculture, with its emphasis on efficiency and profit, has exploited the natural interactions that sustain it to the breaking point.

We've drawn inspiration from the ancient tragedies; the archetype of the tragic Greek hero and structural elements such as the Greek chorus. The beekeepers, like Aristotle's tragic heroes, are trying to do the right thing in a situation where the right thing cannot be done. Their livelihood is linked to an agricultural system that places unsustainable demands on the creatures in their care. Our relationship with the bee – one that once was revered as sacred – has become one of dominion and exploitation.

Pollen Nation is the first film to delve into the issues behind the bee die-off that plagued beekeepers this year, but it goes way beyond the headlines (this year’s problems were simply a crisis on top of a crisis, as May Berenbaum puts it) to deliver a clear-eyed message about the fragility and hubris of this industrialized food system. The beekeepers speak for themselves, painfully aware of their reliance on an agricultural system that is faltering at its base.

We hope that after watching Pollen Nation, our audience will not only better understand the honeybee problem, but also the importance of supporting farming and land use that works with - rather than against – natural systems: it's not just the bees or the beekeepers who caught up in this flawed cycle, but all of us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Director's Statement from Robert Greenwald about "Rethink Afghanistan"

It started with a holiday trip to Vietnam, in December of 2008.

As I usually do, I spent hours deciding which books to take. Among the first to make the cut was The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam’s 1969 bestseller about the folly of our military action there.

As our family traveled through Vietnam and saw the sights, we talked to the people and began to understand, viscerally, the impact our war and policy had on the Vietnamese people and culture. It was surreal for the adults among us to be visiting, as tourists, places whose names we remembered from nightly newscasts that featured military pronouncements and body counts: Saigon, Da Nang, Hanoi. In Hanoi, we celebrated Christmas Eve among thousands of locals on motor bikes, shouting, singing, waving flags and generally embracing the “Santa Claus” consumerism of our holiday.

It felt surreal as well to be reading Halberstam’s book, which, despite its publication date, began to seem frighteningly prescient about our country’s current military involvements. The Best and the Brightest details the mistakes made by smart leaders who failed to consider history, overestimated our supposed military superiority, and stubbornly insisted on strategies and tactics that failed to take into account how the people of an invaded country view the occupiers—A policy that was guided by a mistaken notion about international communism and the Domino Theory.

When I returned to Los Angeles with page after page of the book underlined, I began to read the stories about Afghanistan in a new light. I began to worry, deeply, about our new administration’s plan to send more troops to that country, to escalate the war and “finish the job” that had been sidetracked by the “wrong war” in Iraq.

This was not the policy of a “change” administration.

This was not the policy that would lead to the better and more hopeful world we wanted.

This was NOT going to make us safer and more secure.

My colleagues at Brave New Films and I began extended debates and conversations. We were not getting fundamental questions answered, such as: How many troops? How long? At what cost? How do we get out? What is the end game? Is this really the way to deal with terrorists? Why invade the sovereign country of Afghanistan when the enemy is Al-Qaeda?

We came to believe very strongly that these questions had to be asked, and they had to be asked of this president, Barack Obama, whom so many had worked so hard to put into office. And they had to be asked now.

Our way to raise questions and raise issues is through our work in media. So, Rethink Afghanistan was born. We wanted to raise the key conceptual questions. We wanted to activate people. We wanted to provide information.

And we wanted to do this with Afghan people–Afghan experts who are on the ground, in country–in the film. One of the many tragedies of the Iraq War was the fact that Iraqis themselves were often invisible to us Americans. We vowed not to let that happen.

Almost as soon as we began, we were attacked by friends and allies. No one wanted to question the new administration’s plans. Many people still believed the war in Afghanistan was a just war, the right war. We lost funding. But we continued.

My trip to Afghanistan in March further reinforced our concerns about the advisability of our country’s military strategy. It was more than obvious to me, bumping over the dirt roads of Kabul in the third poorest country in the world, that the solutions to social, political and economic problems are not military solutions.

We pushed ahead without funding. We could not afford to wait until a full-length film was finished. We were simultaneously fundraising, filming, interviewing and editing. We then posted sections online as soon as we could finish them.

We built each section of the film around key issues:

The Troops – We laid out the arguments and information to make clear that more troops would not solve the deep-seated problems of Afghanistan.

Pakistan – We needed people to understand the critical role of Pakistan to everything in the region. It was important to gain a sense of Pakistan’s views of its own national interest. The world can’t only be seen through United States eyes.

3. Cost – As the economy got worse, the economic arguments against the escalating costs of war got stronger and more potent.

4. Women – Many strong progressive allies were so blindsided by the awful things the Taliban were doing to women; they were missing the large picture that this was not (in the words of Tom Hayden) “a war to protect feminists.” The Karzai government and its warlord allies were responsible for terrible attacks and destruction, and the many women in Afghanistan we interviewed made this very clear. They wanted the troops out.

5. Civilian Casualties A young Afghan man tracked me down through Facebook and insisted on meeting me at the airport as I was about to fly out of Kabul. He gave me devastating video footage of a refugee father offering to sell his young daughter because he couldn’t care for her. There was much more similar footage. Between my interviews, the news footage, and this footage, we created another section.

6. Security – National security is the core fundamental argument for the war among those who support it. As Halberstam says over and over, Vietnam was a tragedy both militarily and politically because people didn’t challenge the assumption that “all communists are the same.” All communists are not the same, and all so-called “terrorists” are not the same. We missed numerous opportunities in Vietnam to negotiate peace because of our simple minded view of communism. In this section seasoned former CIA experts challenge the notion that this war for national security is making us safer. They argue that our fundamental misreading of terrorism is making us less secure as we create more people willing to attack us every day.

7. Solutions – We wanted to provide some simple, common sense stories of people doing what is really needed in Afghanistan: creating jobs, running schools, and providing medical care. We chose the few that we could quickly get on camera, but there are still many more.

Thank you for supporting Brave New Foundation and thank you for your efforts in spreading the word to Rethink Afghanistan.

Robert Greenwald

Monday, June 13, 2011

Q and A with Andrew Nisker, Director of Chemerical

Q: What inspired you to make this film?

A: “The inspiration for Chemerical came from research I did during the production of Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home. In that film I had a family keep their waste for three months to connect the dots between the pollution we create at home and to show how their lifestyle affects
the environment.”

“One of the areas we explored, for Garbage!, was the effects that cleaning products have on our water and the environment. Through that analysis we discovered that waste water and air quality in the family home are affected by cleaning and personal care products. I thought this subject alone was worthy of further examination and I came up with the idea to have another family rid their home of all toxic cleaners and personal care products and figure out how to live without them or make their own.”

Q: What are some of the issues you discovered with these products?

A: “Well, I just looked at the labels. I saw what was in these products and I started to do research on all the common ingredients. Why are they in there? What do they do? However, the majority of the products don’t list their ingredients so I had dig elsewhere to find most of that information.”

“One of the great resources I found was the cosmetics database ( online, which is an incredible web resource. It goes behind the scenes to explore the ingredients in your personal care products.”

“In the process of doing the research, we discovered a tremendous amount of these chemicals are rushed to market and they’re self regulated, which means the government doesn’t require corporations to submit the chemicals for testing. In our society, it’s good enough for these companies to just say that these chemicals are safe for human use. We tend not to ask questions.”

“Some of these chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine, were initially developed for industrial purposes. Chlorine and Ammonia were mixed together to form Chlormine Gas as a chemical weapon used in the First World War. After the war there were stockpiles of these chemicals and scientists had to figure out ways to repurpose them so they started infusing them in cleaning products.”

“Before the introduction of these chemicals in our homes we used simple products like vinegar, water, lemon, baking soda and salt.”

Q: How hard was it to find a family to volunteer for three months and rid themselves of all their cleaners?

A: “It wasn’t that hard at all actually. We were on TV promoting Garbage! and mentioned that our next film was going to be focused on chemicals in the home. We had hundreds of families respond to us, via email so we put on Craigslist to find families. These families submitted video auditions to showcase all of the toxic products they keep in their homes, and we ended up choosing the Goode’s because that had a tremendous amount of these products and were also a fun group of people.”

Q: Were there any exceptions on what sort of chemicals they had to remove from their home?

A: “We didn’t go hardcore. Chemicals are good and bad, so we like to say they removed “toxins” from their home. When it came to personal care and cleaning products, we got rid of everything. We introduced them to people who could help them replace the products with natural and homemade alternatives. At the end of the process the family felt better physically, and were happy with the money they saved.”

“They made their own dishwashing and laundry soap, window cleaner, deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo. Strangely enough, the majority of these things were all made with the same ingredients.”

“- And guess what, they didn’t lose any friends in the process. They smelled good and felt good!”

“It’s a funny thing, and we talk about this in the movie, but we’ve become accustomed to smelling like things we actually aren’t. A couple hundred years ago people would rarely take baths. They’d wash their hands and in order to look clean and neat they’d wear pressed, clean, white linen and change their clothes when they got dirty. They were afraid to take baths because they though the hot water would open their pores and let in diseases and germs. Our natural smells were common back then but today we’ve gotten used to smelling like something from another planet. We don’t smell like human beings as Katherine Ashenberg tells us in the movie.”

Q: What did the family do after filming finished?

A: “They’ve stuck with it, but it’s only been a few months. Time will tell.”

Q: What sort of devices do you use in the film to get your message across?

A: “We created the Chemerical brand, which is a combination of the words chemical, America, and miracle. We thought this film would be an opportunity for people to re-think the way they clean their homes, and it would be our opportunity to re-brand the way we all clean. After all, the way we clean and learn to clean has been shaped by how everything is marketed, which started in the 1940s.”

“The creation of the soap opera brought an avalanche of cleaning ads into the home, targeted at housewives.”

“We have animation in the film, and what we’ve done is gone back to the old cartoon ads, that used to pitch cleaning products in the home, and we’ve given them a fresh look. We’ve created a new Chemerical family with a new pitch person, and we’re re-defining clean for a new generation throughout the film.”

“These ads are a tongue-in-cheek ode to the way we clean. For example, the revolutionary new Chemerical air freshener is called OTW, which simply stands for Open The Window.”

“There are other products we’re pitching throughout the film that are just as simple, oldfashioned ways of cleaning: vinegar, water, baking soda and essential oils. That’s it. That’s the way Chemerical cleans.”

“It’s a counter-reaction to the over-saturation of the cleaning market, to which we’ve been subjected to for the past 60 years.”

Q: What’s the target audience for Chemerical?

A: “Similar to Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home, we feel Chemerical will appeal to a broad audience, especially those of us who take care of the cleaning in our homes, and all of us who use some sort of commercialized form of personal care product.”

“Chemerical makes you question the usefulness of the ingredients inside your products and how at the end of the day using these products 24/7 could have an adverse effect on your health. So I concluded, why take the chance and use products full of toxic ingredients when it’s far safer for you and your family to go natural. It does the same job yet it doesn’t hurt you or the environment.”

Q: Do you show how to make these natural cleaners in the film?

A: “Yes. As I mentioned earlier, the Goode family made all their own personal cleaning products, and we follow along as they do it, to see how it turns out.” “We’re also going to be releasing a Chemerical cookbook. I know it sounds strange, but yes, making cleaning products is kind of like cooking. You add a dash of lemon and some water and vinegar and it’s as simple of making a jug of lemonade, or in the case of making lipstick, like mixing up a batch of caramel or cookies. For example all that’s really in lipstick is wax, oil and natural coloring.”

“The cookbook will be offered with the film, and it’ll show you how to make these products.”

Q: What’s next for you?

A: “Hopefully a vacation!”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Director's Statement from Mark Achbar about "The Corporation"

My father was a successful small businessman, so I personally have had a life of relative privilege because of the financial circumstances of my family. I've always felt an obligation to try to use that privilege responsibly. In addition, filmmakers are very fortunate here in Canada, with (diminishing) public funding available to us and editorial freedom.

My overriding objective in making The Corporation was to challenge conventional wisdom about the role of the corporation in society, to make the commonplace seem strange, to alienate viewers from the normalcy of the dominant culture, allowing them to gain a critical distance on the corporations and the corporate culture that envelop us all.

When it comes to the fate of the Earth, I don't believe in legitimizing destructive forces by validating their perspective in a "balanced" TV-style journalism format. But I am interested in and, frankly, fascinated by the advocates of economic globalization and corporate dominance. It is essential, in a program of corporate literacy, to hear from them, and to understand their perspective. Reform comes from within as well as without, which is why The Corporation also tries to expose the institutional constraints many good people working inside big corporations struggle with.

-- Mark Achbar