Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Greensburg Movie Don't

Friday night Greg and I went to the Fox to see a film by Eric Hyde and Oliver Hall called, "A Community of Hope Rebuilds - The Green Rebuilding of Greensburg." The film makers were there to answer questions afterwards.

It was bad in ways I can't even begin to describe with only words. And had absolutely nothing to do with building green, as the title might lead you to believe.

Greensburg Kansas was devastated by an F5 tornado in May of this year. I covered it extensively on the blog, concluding with photos from the freelance work I did there.

These filmmakers had some political agenda, but the film was so poorly done I couldn't even figure out what their agenda was. It seems rather ridiculous to make an hour long film and never make your point, whatever your point is.

I got out of it that they are unhappy with FEMA, although I can't tell you exactly why. I got that they thought Dave Strano of the Kansas Mutual Aid Society, a self-described "Lawrence based anarchist collective," needed to talk endlessly about his group being asked to leave Greensburg because officials considered the group would be a drain on security resources. I got that they don't know how to spell.

They cobbled together some bad, blurry, shot from a car, black and white video with talking head video of people like Strano and others who had very little to do with the actual event, and put some music behind it that - while pleasant enough - was incredibly tiring for nearly an hour. Interspersed here and there were screens of white lettering on black backgrounds that helped tell the story - provided you could overlook the misspellings, which I could not.

This film has absolutely no integrity. If you're going to tell a story like this, you need to try to tell the whole story, not just some part of it. If you are going to focus on only a part, try to find the interesting part.

A situation like Greensburg has a thousand interesting stories - actually, 1500 people lived there so there were at least 1500 interesting stories. They didn't tell any of them. The few residents they spoke with were good - one of them was a gentleman I interviewed when we were there - but those were just brief moments of hope in an otherwise dismal experience. They spoke to few officials, other than filming one meeting where a number of them discussed federal funding. There was no video of then mayor, Lonnie McCollum, who is one of the most interesting public officials I've ever met. You simply cannot tell the Greensburg tornado story without including him.

Another tip would be to be truthful. At one point they are overheard telling someone in the film they're making a documentary for PBS. Now, I don't know that that's untrue, but I am dubious about it. They say that the Kansas City station has agreed to air the film, which astonishes me, but I'm very doubtful that was already worked out when they were shooting. But, I don't know that. I just suspect that.

Finally, the self-importance of the film makers was embarrassing. They told various stories about talking to elected officials and gave the impression they were forcing them to make changes because they were there filming. Please. Give me a break. I've been dealing with elected officials in journalism and other venues for all of my career and it's pretty rare they're afraid of anything you're doing. I happen to know some of the officials they were talking about, and I am certain they were not afraid of these two guys.

In the film they have a screen that indicates "this is what FEMA doesn't want you to see" when showing the trailers there. The reality is that FEMA asks people to sign in before entering the area. I, of all people, am pretty liberal and generally eschew any rules, but sometimes they serve a real purpose.

All of that said, I genuinely appreciate the effort necessary to get anything from conception to completion. Creating anything requires time, attention and devotion. I think their motives are decent, but they're misdirected and way too uninformed. I'm also not sure that filmmaking is their forte.

The redeeming part of the evening was that there were lots of people there I knew so I got to talk to them. And, a gentleman from Greensburg got up and mentioned the movement to build Greensburg back green. He was instrumental in pushing that agenda and suggested those interested check the website He would have been an interesting interview. But, true to form, the filmmakers, who stated they were interested in rebuilding green and included that in the title of the film, didn't know anything about this organization.

I feel bad whenever I give something a negative review, because I know a lot of effort has gone into it. But, this is just so bad on so many levels it's embarrassing. It is unfair to the residents of Greensburg - past, present and future - to have this representing them in any way.

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