Pivotal “Green” Film (& Sundance winner) Debut’s in HI

Most Important Film of 2009 Coming June 29th—BE THERE. The Future Depends On It

Pivotal “Green” Film (& Sundance winner) Debut’s in HI

Filmmaker Josh Tickell was 10 years old when he sat at the foot of his mother's bed and listened to her try to explain the "unexplainable" sickness that afflicted her. This was a familiar story for those living between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, in what Louisianans call "Cancer Alley"; a hundred mile stretch of gulf coastal bayou crammed with more than 150 oil refineries and petrochemical plants. In their wake, unprecedently high rates of cancer, lung disease, and miscarriage (his mother had nine)—all of which can be attributed to bi-products left from the fuel habit that's gripped the U.S. for the last 50 years. It was this moment that Tickell's hatred for all things oil spawned a lifelong pursuit of educating—and fixing—the problem.

On June 26, Tickell will arrive in Hawai'i to screen his film, "Fuel", at the Neil S. Blaisdell arena. Having recently contacted B on Hawaii headquarters to ask if we'd like to view an advanced copy of the film, (which won the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah) Tickell also asked if we'd like to help spread the word, if we felt so inclined.

Let us say that we are so very, very inclined.

Tickell's "Fuel" may be the most important film you see this year. It's a more succinct "Inconvenient Truth"; a combination of Michael Pollan books, with a smattering of a dozen sustainable energy documentaries put out in the last 5 years—with one significant difference: Instead of merely pointing out the all-to-familiar 'This is how bad everything really is' factor, Tickell explains how we can begin to make changes—now. That is: Not waiting for technology to get better. Not sitting idly for the government to "fix" things, or for automobile technology to catch up with the dozens of nations around the world that make the U.S. look foolish. He talks directly to you about how to swing this building movement in to full stride.

Tickell's story—which winds through the film—is what separates this film from others on the same subject, according to the director.

"While it was important for me to give a comprehensive past of our energy usage and how we got in the mess we're currently in, the goal of my whole experience was to encourage viewers to lift us out of it," said Tickell. "The best way for me to do this was through my personal story. It's not another series of baby seals covered in oil. It's rather progressive and controversial—like me."

Tickell was born in Australia to an American mother and Aussie father, where he spent his livelihood frolicking in the country's outback. When his mother's relatives began dying prematurely, she insisted on moving Josh and his brother back to Louisiana in order to be closer to the family. Making the switch from swimming in  the pristine oceans and playing with the healthy wildlife of Australia, to the oil-slicked bayou between New Orleans and Baton Rouge left an indelible mark on Tickell. After studying sustainable sciences in college, he became obsessed with organic farming (even moving to Europe to learn the practice) and the efficiency of diesel engines. Upon his return, he retro-fitted a large van with an engine that could run entirely on vegetable oil, which he aptly named "The Veggie Van", and went on a tour that aimed to be 2 years. In the end, Tickell had enough footage to piece together the outline for this film (as well as the manuscripts for a pair of books), which then attracted a bevy of experts in the field of sustainable energy.

"Clarity, education, information, communication... these are all the things that the so-called 'Green' movement is missing," said Tickell. "Unfortunately, these are also the very things that the oil companies, the corporations and government backers behind them really excel at," he added, noting the corporate machine's proficiency  at "mastering the spin", while the message of the "good guys" gets lost in science and boring facts.

Unlike films that tout semi-valid conspiracy theory (there's a sample of it in "Fuel", albeit substantiated with interviews of former Energy Dept. representatives, U.N. inspectors, etc.), "au natural" celebrity personalities (there's a few lines from likes of Woody Harrelson, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and company), this work begins with the hard facts of how we arrived at this level of energy dependence, and moves in to the efforts currently underway to solve the issues. Some of which, it can be noted, are taking place right here in Hawaii. (This isn't addressed in the film specifically; yet the study of algae farms and the likelihood of the aquatic plant's ability to make jet fuel becoming one of the key future sources of synthetic oil is. Scientists at NELHA on the Big Island are among the leading authorities on algae harvesting.)

Tickell partnered with Hawaii's own Blue Planet Foundation for the Hawai'i screening at the end of this month. If you're looking for questions to ask him after the screening, feel free to ask him about the educational curriculum he's finalizing that is about to be rolled out to schools and educators through a program at the United Nations. He's also partnered with (O'ahu homeowner) Paul Mitchell, Walmart, Honda and Toyota, among others to develop sustainable products worldwide. And if you really want to get personal, you can congratulate him on his engagement to his partner Rebecca Harrell, who performs a number of songs heard in "Fuel" (the pair will marry in Hawai'i later on this summer.)

Fuel tickets can be purchased in advance at the Blaisdell center or at participating Macy's, for $10. Show begins at 6:30 on Friday, June 26th.

"It's not another series of baby seals covered in oil. It's rather progressive and controversial—like me." —Tickell