Review: ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’
Documentarianism & Ecology
Friday, March 8, 2013
Director Craig Rosebraugh pulls no punches as he sheds light on corporate campaigns designed to drown out unfavorable climatology findings. "Greedy Lying Bastards" has been rewarded at international festivals and opens in San Diego March 8.
See the trailer here.
"Bastards" makes its intended points, but does so in a hairy manner. It's a bit rough, but stay with me...
By the film's end we learn the following: there is a global environmental crisis; energy corporations have permeated the political system with their financial support, and created mechanisms designed to create enough public doubt to hinder environmental efforts that oppose their interests.
Without the investigation into the final notion of creating public doubt, the film is more white noise. Thankfully, it's there and Rosebraugh's efforts aren't fruitless.
However, the first time director's narration is distracting and amateurish.
Here are a few of his most unsavory lines from the film:
"Consequences are a bitch"
"Guess who that pissed off."
"It's time to stop these bastards."
"I guess he was busy with world domination that day." (In reference to a corporate executive Rosebraugh was trying to interview.)
I understand he is trying to be candid in his delivery, but Rosebraugh's crass and unimaginative diction is more distracting than empowering. Swearing only works if you use it creatively, dammit! And Rosebraugh's unprofessional tone can (and likely does) compromise his film's credibility to those he is looking to inform and persuade.
Beyond this, the film holds true to modern documentary trends. We open with quick shots of gruesome weather -- floods, fires and storms with vague narration. Then we get personal. A series of profiles of global warming victims -- some work, some do not.
Lifelong inhabitants show where their land used to be, and where they've been forced to move, due to melting ice and rising waters; most of their ancestors' "land" was thick ice. The local leaders must organize multi-million dollar relocation efforts for entire tribes and villages.
Perhaps the most pathos-intensive aspect of the documentary -- Tuvaluans are shown conducting their lives in constant flood. Children tread across new rivers with plastic flotations, and community buildings are forced to be closed. (This article suggests the contrary.) These are simple, effective connections for the audience.
Then we spend an excessive amount of time visiting American "fire victim" families. They show us the remains of their Christmas nativity scenes, where their boats and trailers used to stand in their three-car driveways, and so on. Is it sad? Sure. I like living in my home too. But they have not been forced to relocate their entire community or surrender their ancestral home. This juxtaposition is more confounding than empowering.
Back to the nitty gritty -- what is this film trying to say?
Through a series of tense courtroom exchanges and simple, modern graphics, the true scope of anti-environmental corporate maneuvering is exposed.
We see how and why energy companies, like Exxon Mobile, hire specialists, PR groups, and "grassroots organizations" to "sell doubt" as one journalist explains. These groups and proclaimed enviro-authorities (like Lord Christopher Monckton) find information from disreputable sources, package them into publicly consumable fasion, and repeat as needed. Effectively, this makes enough "noise" to drown out scientific conclusions of climate experts like Kevin Trenberth and Michael Mann. Both Trenberth and Mann have received pushback from corporate funded specialists on their initiatives to lessen environmental impact.
It's self asserting and in-your-face. Nobody is off limits to Rosebraugh. He highlights President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Justice Clarence Thomas, and he absolutely dismantles Senator Jim Inhofe (the biggest face on the film poster above), as powerful politicians letting finances dictate their decisions.
"Bastards" is unrefined. The loose handedness of the film is likely because of the passionate subject matter. Rosebraugh is amateurish, reckless, and as a result, sometimes ineffective -- that's probably why he chose the language he did. But overall, his wild passion creates an unorthodoxly effective product and at least one clear message: stop what you feel you must however you can.
"Bastards" executive producer, actress and activist Daryl Hannah, is currently working to promote this film in addition to protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. Her efforts have gotten her arrested several times (pictured left).
RealClimate, a climate science website Dr. Michael Mann contributes to