Although the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival didn’t set out to program Green films, it may be no coincidence that several environment related or themed features and docs snuck their way into the diverse programming.
One of those films, first time director Aristomenis Tsirbas’s lushly animated Battle for Terra spotlights the peaceful planet of Terra where these wide-eyed tadpole looking denizens live. The Terrareans share the landscape (and skyscape) with sucking plants (a la Fantastic Planet) and flying whales in a healthy, peaceful environment – until the aliens attack. Only this time, humans represent the invaders complete with a jingoistic and aggressive mentality. The thing is that the humans used up all their resources back on Earth so then they decided to try their luck next door – Mars and Venus. Soon after colonizing the virgin neighbors, the three planets got into a battle royal and blew each other up so now the humans (in the form of Earth Force) need to take over the unspoiled Terra.
This environmental Star Wars attempts to create ethical and moral dilemmas but really only creates a green-handed (or green heavy handed) story that creates black and white distinctions between the exploitative humans and the passive Terrareans.
Tsirbas must have watched a lot of films before he took to directing because aside from the other films mentioned previously, he borrows heavily from Planet of the Apes, Starship Troopers, 1984 and other dystopian film worlds. Offering a nod or wink to a film can be cool if used subtly but here the homage borders on film plagiarism.
Environmental films will no doubt become more of a focal point in the coming years and hopefully the other Green films in the festival will offer a more intriguing and thought provoking slant.
Battle for Terra screens: April 25, 29