Community Cinema Screens Dirt! The Movie in West Hollywood

Posted on March 17, 2010

Last night, Community Cinema hosted a screening of the Independent Lens film Dirt! The Movie at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Calif. The film looks at how industrial farming, mining, and urban development have endangered soil and resulted in cataclysmic droughts, starvation, floods and climate change. National Community Cinema Coordinator Desiree Gutierrrez gives an overview of what happened and discusses the local impact.

It's early in the morning (okay, afternoon!) and I am still recovering from last night’s tremendously successful Community Cinema screening of Dirt! The Movie. Nearly 300 people gathered to watch the film at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Calif. The evening started with a delicious organic, locally grown, zero-waste reception catered by Jennie Cooks Catering

As guests mingled with their glasses of California-grown, organic wine, filmmakers Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow greeted arriving guests such as Kathleen Kellogg Johnson (Kellogg Garden Products), and Denise Ritchie (Malibu Compost). The audience was completely engaged with the film. A few audience members had to step out into the lobby to catch their breath and hold back their tears. One guest told me, “The film is amazing, but really hard to watch. We need to be simultaneously having a conversation about water rights and access to water. It’s simply not possible for everyone in the world to grow a little organic garden in their backyards if they don’t have water.”

After the film, we had a top caliber panel discussion with filmmakers Bill Benenson and Eugene Rosow, TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis, and Mudtown Farms organizer Janine Watkins. Moderator for the evening was Margot Roosevelt an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The panel and audience focused the conversation to the issues of dirt and environmental justice in California. Mudtown farms is a 2.5-acre farm development in Watts, Calif. Watts is an economically-depressed community compounded by being in the midst of an urban food desert. 

With only one supermarket in Watts, the community has very little access to fresh foods. Janine Watkins stressed the importance of growing food not just for your own consumption, but also to share with other communities. She encouraged people to network with communities other than their own and to literally share home garden harvests. Andy Lipkis highlighted the need for political change to focus on capturing rainwater through the use of cisterns rather than expensive desalinization plans. According to Andy, the City of Los Angeles is currently looking into policies that will allow homeowners to retrofits their homes with both solar panels and cisterns under an economic incentive plan. 

The audience could have talked for hours with questions about education and suggestions on composting best practices. Unfortunately at 10:00 PM it was lights out. Even though the theater closed, I’ll have you know at least 50 people continued the conversation outside. I am always pleased to see a really engaged audience; it gives me hope as an organizer that the event made a difference. Maybe those folks will share what they learned, start a garden, and share some fruits with their neighbors. 

-Desiree Gutierrrez National Community Cinema Coordinator


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