Community Cinema Screens Dirt! The Movie in Monterey, CA

Posted on April 19, 2010

Community Cinema recently hosted a screening of the Independent Lens film Dirt! The Movie in Monterey, CA. The film looks at how industrial farming, mining, and urban development have endangered soil and resulted in cataclysmic droughts, starvation, floods, and climate change. Find out what happened at the screening from Elsa Dooling of the Pesticide Watch Education Fund, who helped organize the event.

Torrential rains washed over the Monterey Bay, and heavy winds ripped through the trees. But, at about 3 PM a sudden break in the storm gave me the opportunity to quickly throw on my rain gear and join our organizing team to begin the planned outdoor festivities that were to precede the April 11th screening of Dirt! The Movie. As if by design, the weather softened and welcomed the community out to enjoy smoothies made with bike power, and to get dirty as they made clay and wildflower seed balls and watched compost demonstrations. 

The energy and momentum of the event got into full swing as the sun peaked out and rainbows could be seen over the theater. Guests mingled and enjoyed delicious treats donated by local restaurants and bakeries, and even sipped wine donated by the Monterey County Film Commission. Table displays offered the audience a chance to learn about the partner organizations that collaborated to bring the event to life: Pesticide Watch Education Fund, Monterey Green Action, Monterey County Film Commission, and ITVS. Our good friend (and local photographer/activist extraordinaire) Michelle Magdalena Maddox, was even screen-printing recycled t-shirts with a beautifully designed calendar of all of April’s Earth Day events right on the spot. It was amazing!

I buzzed around between the reception, the demonstrations and making sure we were technically set up to screen the film. My biggest priority was to make sure we were ready for the question and answer session with filmmaker Gene Rosow (via Skype) after the film. Thank goodness I was smart enough to retain the services of the theater’s resident AV tech, Vince! I’d never done a videoconference before and certainly was a bit daunted by the task, but also soooo excited by it at the same time! Patience was key, and so was Vince! 

We got it set and were ready to roll as the audience took their seats. The rains did return, but just in time for everyone to move into the theater to begin the screening. A wonderful gathering of people (many familiar faces too) from across the Monterey Bay Area filed in as I welcomed everyone and introduced Joe Fletcher, the director of the Monterey County Film Commission, to introduce the opening trailer for the film. Joe talked about the Film Commission’s passion for bringing independent films to our community and infusing our film community with more opportunities like this screening of Dirt!

After the trailer, our special guest, ITVS’s Associate Director of Communications Chi Do, welcomed and acknowledged the students, teachers, environmental professionals, activists, and filmmakers (and film lovers) present in the room as she talked about ITVS’s work and commitment to events such as these. She really opened people’s eyes to the relationship between our event and the greater efforts ITVS is involved in educationally and cinematically to share information, educate and inform audiences. With that, the lights went back down and we began the film. I sat down in the front row (happy to be sitting for the first time in a couple of hours) and found myself immediately drawn into the movie. I looked back at the audience and saw their hearts in their eyes, and I could feel the shared emotion. 

As the tone of the film shifted to the treacherous nature of man’s assault on the soil, the audience moved too. And as we neared the end of the film, a collective exhale could be felt vibrating through the room as Wangari Maathai reminded us all that we can be the hummingbird and “do the best we can.” We moved quickly through our raffle, where we gave away DVDs of the film, Dirt! tote bags, and tons of organic gardening supplies all donated by a very enthusiastic Steve McShane, a local garden business owner. Audience members asked heartfelt questions about Gene Rosow’s inspiration to make the film, and whether he believed we could turn things around as a planet. Listening to Gene’s inspirational and informative responses, I watched the audience soak up every word. 

I was so thrilled to make this Skypecast work! It was so cool! As a community organizer working on a grassroots budget, it really elevated the level of community engagement. Brilliant! The rain was softly coming down again, but nothing could dampen our spirits! I left feeling sure that the community was engaged, was moved to act and was inspired. That was a winning feeling for sure! And trust me, it’s not always like that after community events. But tonight, I felt the connection … with my community, my work, with friends old and new, and with my commitment to carry the many messages in the film to more people. I got dirty and it felt great! And that’s a wrap! Elsa Dooling, Central Coast Community Organizer Pesticide Watch Education Fund Dirt! The Movie premieres tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 on Independent Lens on PBS (check local listings). Check out a preview:



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