Reel world issues

Films with an environmental message come to Reno’s West Street Market

Here’s something to chew on: This Thanksgiving, 45 million turkeys will end up on Americans’ dinner plates. Many of those turkeys were genetically modified to have unnaturally large breasts—so unnatural that they are unable to reproduce on their own—and were raised in incubators.

This might have you questioning the origins of your food. So after you’ve given thanks this holiday weekend, take time to check out Fresh: New Thinking About What We Are Eating, a documentary film that takes a look at where America’s food really comes from. It’s the first in the four-part Planetwize Film Fest, a series of films highlighting today’s most pressing global issues, screening at the West Street Market for the next four Saturdays.

Wize guys

According to founder Dan Porras, Planetwize is “a music and media company focusing on global culture and sustainability. … It’s like iTunes meets activism.” Primarily, the San Francisco-based organization sells cause-related music by dozens of artists, some more widely known than others, with proceeds from sales benefiting the artists’ causes of choice, helping them to align their music with the issues they’re passionate about.

Additionally, they create original music projects that tackle global issues, such as the upcoming Power Up the Planet, a global fusion compilation CD dedicated to supporting Solar Aid, a cause designed to bring solar power to poor communities. The media component of Planetwize involves publishing a variety of “good news” articles, furthering information about what’s being done to reverse climate change and improve the world.

“I’ve always been interested in the environmental field, and have always been a musician,” says Porras of the organization he founded in 2008. After pursuing environmental studies at Sierra Nevada College and University of Colorado at Boulder, he formed his band, Chupacabra, and a record label, but still wanted to find a way to incorporate his passion for environmental issues into his work. He went on to earn a master’s degree in Environment and Development at the London School of Economics.

“Planetwize is really a lifelong venture, a quest that I’ve had to combine music and sustainability,” explains Porras. “In my own band, we were always looking for ways to give back. Traditionally, you might put on a benefit concert, but that’s a one-off, and doesn’t provide ongoing support. I knew a lot of musicians are looking for ways to give back, and we wanted to build a platform that would make it easy for a band or musician to align their music with a good cause.”

A fest full of movies

Although his work has taken him to London and all over the West, he now divides his time between Reno and the Bay Area. Porras’ stint as a Reno-area musician earned him a gig promoting music at The Green Room, the now defunct bar/live music venue formerly in the West Street Market location. His interest in and connection to that spot introduced him to the Market and its manager, Shelli Fine.

“Shelli said the market really wanted to focus on sustainability and community, and we were talking about how Planetwize could get involved in that space again,” he says. The two brainstormed some of the primary issues they’d want to address, as well as some ideas for how to do this, including a potential music series in the warm weather months and a film festival that would show documentaries devoted to these issues.

“We have been looking to do films down at the Market ever since we opened, but it’s just a little more logistically and legally complicated than most people would think, with rights fees, etcetera,” says Fine via email. “This was the perfect scenario for us, and a win-win. He has a venue in which to promote sustainable, green issues and the mission of Planetwize, and I get the film festival.”

A $5 suggested donation gets you in—although no one will be turned away—and seats are first come, first served. Prior to each film, which takes place in the back of the market by Se7en Tea House, a small reception will feature refreshments from West Street Market vendors that connect to each film’s theme. Although all four Saturdays’ offerings haven’t been fully planned yet, this first one will feature fresh salads, organic snacks and biodynamic wine to coincide with Fresh.

“Since people will have eaten a lot over Thanksgiving, we thought nice fresh veggies would be appropriate for this first one,” says Porras, adding that Planetwize will also have a small kiosk within the market this fall, which will sell cause-related music and promote the festival.

“We really just want to have people come down there, raise some awareness and spark good conversation.”

Planetwize Film Fest schedule

Fresh: New Thinking About What We Are Eating Saturday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 p.m.

This documentary by Ana Joanes celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are reinventing the way we eat. You’ll meet former professional basketball player Will Allen, now one of the most influential leaders of food security and urban farming; Joel Salatin, a world-famous sustainable farmer and entrepreneur who appeared in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and David Ball, owner of an independent supermarket who has reinvented his business to take on our increasingly Wal-Mart-dominated economy.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars

Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m.

“I first saw this film in New York, after grad school,” says Porras. “It’s really powerful, and devastating and beautiful.” Backed by Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube and executive producers Steve Bing and Shelley Lazar, this documentary has won 13 major awards and tells the story of six Sierra Leonean musicians who formed a band while living in a refugee camp in Guinea after many of their loved ones were murdered in the Sierra Leone Civil War. The film chronicles three years, from the refugee camps back to war-torn Sierra Leone, where they record their first studio album. “It’s an emotional story about the power of music to bring people together and help improve their lives,” says Porras.

FLOW: For Love of Water

Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m.

This award-winning documentary by Irena Salina first premiered at Sundance in 2008. It investigates what some experts call the most important political and environmental issue of this century: the world water crisis. Today, 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. The film explores the dangers of the growing privatization of the world’s water supply, a $400 billion global industry. This film was invited to be screened at the United Nations during the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Crude: The Real Price of Oil

Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

Filmmaker Joe Berlinger examines the landmark case in which 30,000 indigenous and colonial dwellers of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador took on oil giant Chevron, which they claimed systematically contaminated and destroyed the land, water and air in one of the most biodiverse and ecologically important regions of the world, over the course of several decades. Taking an objective view, the film takes place on three continents, introducing us to attorneys from both sides of the case to look at the human cost of our addiction to oil and the difficulty of holding corporations accountable for it.