Doom-saying documentaries these days focus mainly on the threat of climate change. They’ve got glaciers melting, landscapes dying, sea levels rising, and coastal cities waiting to slide under the sea.

Lots of docs in this vein, like Chasing Ice and A Fierce Green Fire, are effective — even moving — in their depictions of the consequences and realities of the environmental situation. However, their similar structures (almost all of which end with a call to arms) have grown tiring, almost trite.

But Fall and Winter is a different doom-and-gloom, soothing-saying beast.

First off, the film isn’t focused on climate change. The more immediate threat, the film shows, is agriculture. Yes, agriculture. Farming, the movie argues, has been bad for humanity all along; it’s led to awfully unfair social hierarchies in almost all agriculturally-based civilizations, and it’s also led to globalization, which is depleting the planet’s resources by means of a toxic consumer culture.

Worst of all is that in 20 years the earth won’t likely be able to support so many billions of humans. The topsoil won’t be there and neither will the fresh water. In the face of unprecedented catastrophe, we are banking on a speedy scientific breakthrough.

I’m not sure I totally bought the argument, but the movie made it well enough. And it evoked particular pathos in showing how throughout history native people lost their way of life and natural treasures when their “white brother” showed up, took everything and killed whatever was left.

Oscillating between polemic and something like a New Age proselytical tract, the movie’s tone is a dreamy attack on modern culture. Dissolving images of billboards and stock photos make consumer culture look cheap, temporary, out-of-touch. Images of industry, old-growth forests and cookie-cutter farm crops create a contrast that questions whether modern man has really taken dominion over the earth or just mutated it into a Frankenstein no longer controllable.

From the get-go, the doc calls for a spiritual and practical return to humanity’s roots. What does that mean? Living off the land, the things which particular environments produce — not just the four staple crops we grow everywhere. The second half or so of the movie is dedicated to showing how people are making super-green, DIY homes out of recycled bottles and organic materials. These people are radicals today, no doubt; but it’s not hard to imagine their creations catching on in the future if not for love of nature but from need.

Fall And Winter is playing today at the St. Anthony Main Theater at 9:30 p.m. It’s also playing again on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.,  during which director Matt Anderson and producer Taylor Feltner will be in attendance.


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

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

Other Highlights: Friday, April 26

Pietà. Winner of a Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Pietà tells an intense tale of a merciless loan shark who meets a woman claiming to be his long-lost mother. But when the woman tries to convince the protagonist to leave his bloody profession, the loan shark realizes he’s in over his head. By acclaimed director Kim Ki-duk. In Korean. (4:30 p.m.; also playing Sunday, April 28 at 8:30 p.m.)

Be Good. A wry look into the ambiguous and daunting world of modern parenting, Be Good follows a couple (Mary and Paul) as they’re pushed to the limits of patience. After taking maternity leave, Mary works all the time but wants to be with her baby. Paul, who’s with the child all day, can’t find the time to work on his screenplay. Touching comedy ensues. In English. (9:30)

Breakfast With Curtis. This is a tale of two houses. In one are a bunch of bohemians. In the other, normal American  folk. A rift separates the two houses, but there’s a chance of its bridging when Syd, a goofy bookseller of the former house, gets an idea for a new art project — one that would employ a young normal neighbor boy as a videographer. Lots of wine drinking. In English. (9:45 p.m.; also playing Saturday, April 27 at 9:15 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.

Jonathon Sharp