Rudie Reviews Laura Israel’s Windfall [DOC NYC Film Festival 2010]

Most documentaries about the environment, namely on global warming, show the dark side of human activity. People unknowingly are responsible for the state of the environment is usually the stance of these films. Not many show how corporations use this fear to exploit people’s good intentions. In the film, Windfall, filmmaker Laura Israel shows the seedy underbelly of protecting the environment. In many ways, displaying the ‘slash and burn’ techniques of some companies to make a quick buck and to prey off the fears of a global collapse.

Windfall is the story of the small town of Meredith in upstate New York. In this vast expanse, picturesque setting, companies want to use this land to build wind turbines to generate alternative energy. They come into town, talk up the townspeople and promise money, economic security and most importantly, the piece of mind that they will be doing the right thing to help the environment. So to speak, giving the town something they don’t want or didn’t ask for. Does this sound familiar?

Picture a time at the turn of the 20th century, replace wind turbines with oil rigs and you have a nightmare depicted by Upton St. Clair. Or set this story in the fictional town of Springfield from the animated TV series, The Simpsons and replace wind turbines with a monorail. In a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ or ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ and you have the story of Meredith, New York. Pitting neighbors against each other for the cause of goodwill or to line the pockets of wealthy land owners, the construction of these wind turbines are an eyesore and ruin these picturesque settings. They are loud, dizzying and sometimes poorly constructed. The argument of whether or not these 400 ft monstrosities actually help the environment is debatable and the use of the common good is specious at best.

Windfall is a well constructed film, full of opposing view points and a compelling story. Seeing a town divided over the issue of goodwill and global responsibility is best captured by these filmmakers. Making strides for a reasonable outcomes is long gone for this town when self-righteousness takes over. And an interesting view point is taken, what is the cost of protecting the environment and what will people put up with for the sake of the planet?

Grade: B