Polluting Paradise is a doc about what happens when a massive landfill is placed just a stone’s throw from a garden-like landscape home to generations of Turkish tea growers.

For five years (2007-2012) filmmaker Fatih Akin captures the drama as the farmers struggle to fight the landfill. Politicians, the movie shows, bring this plague upon the people by loosely interpreting regulations and by hiring engineers of unbelievable incompetence.

And with the garbage — tons and tons of garbage — comes not only an overwhelming stench, but birds that rain crap on the crop, and trash-juice that runs down the hillside and turns the Black Sea literally black.

But not all is ugly. Akin contrasts the grossness of the pollution with the snow-and-summer beauty of the Turkish coast.  Likewise, the simple, rustic customs of the farmers are set against that of the bureaucrats, who only seem to show up in their fancy cars during times of catastrophe and protest.

One can’t watch the movie without thinking about how such events would play out in Minnesota. Imagine the outrage if a dump was placed right next to a community in Duluth. Or imagine the anger if streams of frothy effluent were flowing into the Brainerd lakes. Minnesotans wouldn’t stand for it.

Such thought experiments, I think, are part of what make an international film festival so great. These works of art — and in-depth reportage — connect us to people separated from us by oceans and languages. But by imagining the troubles of others, we acknowledge the things both of us have in common: a fondness for our heritage, our landscapes, our homes.

Polluting Paradise (Der Müll Im Garten Eden) is playing at the St. Anthony Main Theater today at 5 p.m.


(credit: The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul)

(credit: The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul)

Other Highlights: Monday, April 22

F*ck for Forest. This doc is about an unusual charity — one that works to save the world’s rain forests by making porn and selling it online. Filmmaker Michał Marczak dives into the culture of this NGO through a man named Danny, and he follows the sexually liberated sect from Berlin’s streets to the Amazon jungles they’re trying to protect. (9:45 p.m.; also playing Friday, April 26 at 10 p.m.)

Broken. Meet Skunk. She’s a British teen whose life goes from not-so-bad to straight-up rotten. Her best friend gets beaten up by one of their neighbors, leaving Skunk to be preyed on by the neighborhood girls. A romance and a medical problem bring more complications. At the end, however, Skunk finds that what’s important in life are the people who stick with you when things change. (9:30 p.m.; also playing Friday, April 26 at 1 p.m.)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Staring Kiefer Sutherland and Kate Hudson, The Reluctant Fundamentalist tells the story of a young, bright Pakistani man who fights his way up the Wall Street ladder only to find that post-9/11 America has an atmosphere he can’t stand. Thus, he moves back to Pakistan, criticizes U.S. policy and finds himself on the receiving end of threats from pretty intimidating characters. (6:40 p.m.; also playing on Thursday, April 25 at 7:20 p.m.)


For the festival schedule, and a complete listing of all the movies being shown, click here. Ticket information is available here.

Throughout the entirety of the 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.


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