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Wed October 14, 2009
No Impact Man
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's MovieTime," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
I am so proud of myself for moving to the city and reducing the environmental impact of my car to negligible, yet after seeing No Impact Man, I am chastened by how little I have done to make life sustainable on this planet. Colin , Michelle, and their baby Isabella spend a year in New York City living with worms that make compost, no electricity, no toilet paper, and no Starbucks, just to name a few of the daily items I could not live without.
This green documentary is the most honest story you could see about people trying to be environmentally responsible and partner-parent responsible at the same time. The former seems easy compared with the challenges of finding common ground between a partner whose dream is the ascetic year (Colin, a blogger and activist)) and a partner, Michelle, a journalist for Business Week (her colleagues call her and Colin "bourgeois f____s"), who has been a retail and Starbucks addict. They've decided to live in Manhattan for a year making no environmental impact.
Lest you find great sympathy for the sufferers, remember Colin is aiming toward a book at the end of the experiment, and Michelle may be getting more satisfaction in converting to the spare life than Colin does in living his dream.
She is the part of the documentary I find most worth watching as she grows from a plain-looking, nerdy writer to a more attractive advocate for the green life, not without kicking and screaming early on. Her transformation is worthy of a round character in a short story, but then she and Colin are co-producers and thereby not above suspicion for manipulating the production.
The couple's relationship nicely parallels the project itself, going from initial skepticism, struggle to accept, and ultimate adjustment to the realities of the state in which little has been compromised but much gained in personal growth. Without the intrusively annoying presence of a Michael Moore, No Impact Man is a seemingly honest depiction of the joys and hardships we all experience on the journey to a sustainable, non-impact life.
Whether or not the drama is contrived, the message that we all need to be involved is true enough.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com