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Arts and Theater 1

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Black Tie International Magazine: The Sarasota Film Festival
Green Cinema Now!


The Sarasota Film Festival
Green Cinema Now!

 
"Taking Root", Wangari Maathai

"Taking Root", Wangari Maathai
Photo by: Martin Rowe


"It is the people who must save the environment. It is the people who must make their leaders change. And we cannot be intimidated. So we must stand up for what we believe in."

Wangari Maathai

 

The Sarasota Film Festival is proud to announce the Green Cinema Now! program for our 2009 edition. This program is a collection of films and discussions that deal with issues and activism surrounding the environmental challenges that face our community, our nation and our planet.

 Presented in partnership with The Video Project www.videoproject.com this program will feature 6 films in our main festival program, including Food Inc.; Upstream Battle; Burning The Future; Crude; Taking Root: The Vision Of Wangari Maathai; and The End Of The Line.  During the festival 10 short films were available on the Sarasota Film Festival's website, each with a unique message about our environment and each with a call to action for activism that continues long after the film has ended.  In conjunction with the Green Cinema Now program, filmmaking activist Steve Michelson and filmmaker David Novack (Burning The Future)  moderate a panel on how to create and build long-term campaigns and calls to action around environmental filmmaking.

Since George Clooney graces our cover and is very involved with African charities, I thought the story of this heroic woman featured in the movie would be an inspirational addition to our other Black Tie stories.

 

Taking Root tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy—a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration.

Wangari Maathai
Founder of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya who, in 2004, became the first environmentalist and first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Synopsis

Planting trees for fuel, shade, and food is not something that anyone would imagine as the first step toward winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet with that simple act Wangari Maathai, a woman born in rural Kenya, started down the path that reclaimed her country’s land from 100 years of deforestation, provided new sources of food and income to rural communities, gave previously impoverished and powerless women a vital political role in their country, and ultimately helped to bring down Kenya's twenty-four-year dictatorship.

TAKING ROOT weaves a compelling and dramatic narrative of one woman's personal journey in the context of the turbulent political and environmental history of her country. Raised in the rural highlands of Kenya, educated in the United States during the 1960s civil rights era, and the first female to receive a PhD in East Africa, Maathai discovered the heart of her life's work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up. They told her that their daily lives had become intolerable: they were walking longer distances for firewood, clean water had become scarce, the soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. Maathai thought to herself, "Well, why not plant trees?" Trees provide shade, prevent soil erosion, supply firewood and building materials, and produce nutritious fruit to combat malnutrition. With this realization Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization encouraging rural women to plant trees.

A seemingly innocuous idea, Maathai soon discovered that tree planting had a ripple effect of empowering change. In the mid 1980s, Kenya was under the repressive regime of Daniel arap Moi under whose dictatorship group gatherings were outlawed. In tending their nurseries women had a legitimate reason to gather outside their homes and discuss the roots of their problems. These grassroots women soon found themselves working successively against deforestation, poverty, ignorance, embedded economic interests, and political oppression, until they became a national political force.

As the trees and the Green Belt Movement grew, a spirit of hope and confidence also grew in ordinary citizens – especially in women – only to be met with violent opposition from the government. Maathai and her colleagues soon found themselves victims of President Moi's political oppression. In response, Maathai’s political activism only grew. At great risk she lead numerous confrontations in defense of the environment and social justice each of which brought her country closer to democracy.

Through TV footage, newspaper headlines, and chilling first person accounts, TAKING ROOT documents these dramatic confrontations of the 1980s and 1990s and captures Maathai's infectious determination and unwavering courage. Through perseverance and widespread grassroots organization, Kenya's fight for democracy finally prevailed. In 2002 a new democratically elected government replaced Moi's, and Maathai became a member of the new Parliament and Assistant Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources.

And the trees continue to grow. Today there are more than 6,000 Green Belt nurseries throughout Kenya that generate income for 150,000 people, and thirty-five million trees have deeply altered the physical and social landscape of the country. The Green Belt Movement has also started programs teaching women about indigenous foods, income generating activities, AIDS, and self-empowerment. Through cinema verité footage of the tree nurseries and the women and children who tend them, TAKING ROOT brings to life the confidence and joy of people working to improve their own lives while also ensuring the future and vitality of their land.

Through intimate conversations with Maathai, whose warm, powerful, and luminous presence imbues much of the film,
TAKING ROOT
captures a world-view in which nothing is perceived as impossible, presenting an awe-inspiring profile of one woman's thirty-year journey of courage to protect the environment, ensure equality between men and women, defend human rights, and promote democracy--all sprouting from the achievable act of planting trees.

Research for this story gathered by Sara Herbert-Galloway
sara@blacktiemagazine.com

www.herbertcollection.com

to learn more go to:www.takingrootfilm.com
 

 

To list an upcoming event please contact:
joyce@blacktiemagazine.com

 
 
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