Mar 28, 2017
Please contact us
or breaking news
Racing To Zero by the Bay
by Jay Randy Gordon & Doniphan Blair
Mike Biddle with the group Raw Plastic at work, from 'Racing to Zero', by Christopher Beaver. photo: courtesy C. Beaver
RACING TO ZERO MAY SOUND LIKE A
negative—except when it comes to waste.
Massive garbage dumps, looming landfills, the North Pacific Gyre, also called the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex, which has debris particles covering an area of ocean over the size of Texas: Is there anything that we can do about it?
"We want a city, that's going to be the first city in the whole country, if not in the world, to go to 100% recycle," says San Francisco’s Mayor Edwin "Ed" Lee in the new film “
Racing to Zero, in Pursuit of Zero Waste
By 2020, he pledged, all the city’s garbage would be either composted or recycled. It’s a formidable challenge. Fortunately, as Mayor Lee well knows, the Bay Area has long been a place for pioneering environmentalists.
Indeed, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, last April, he launched the "Zero-50-100-Roots" campaign. In addition to the zero waste to the landfill component, this plan strives for 50 percent sustainable travel (bikes, electric buses, etc) and using 100 percent renewable energy. For more information, go
Hula hooping with recycled materials in front of Mayor Ed Lee's SF City Hall. photo: courtesy C. Beaver
These are the issues at the heart of "Racing to Zero" by Christopher Beaver, who previously did “Tulare, the Phantom Lake” (2012) about what happens when water is diverted from a poor district in California's Central Valley.
How exciting can a documentary on trash be, you might wonder? Short answer: Very. San Francisco’s passion for going green is unbelievably contagious and Beaver captures it.
“The filming of 'Racing to Zero' was fun, pure fun,” he told me by email. “One doesn’t often get to say that about a film project.”
Edited by Maureen Gosling, who edited a lot of films by Les Blank, the recently-passed Berkeley documentarian, and produced by Diana Fuller, a board member at the Roxie Theater in SF who used to head the famed Film Arts Foundation, “Racing to Zero” is an upbeat, fast-paced film.
Using almost-humorous music and quick cutting, the filmmakers showcase an army of charismatic recycle workers who refreshingly flip our view of garbage from waste into resource. The film also captures the collaborative spirit, which is obviously key.
"One thing I liked is that, when we were editing, Christopher [Beaver] said that anything that smacked of 'eat your broccoli' should be cut,” noted Gosling, who has a massive 27 projects to her credit, most famously Blank’s “Burden of Dreams” (1982) which followed Werner Herzog in Peru making “Fitzcaraldo” (1982).
Editor Maureen Gosling, of Les Blank fame (lft), and Producer Diana Fuller. photo: courtesy C. Beaver
“Not that broccoli isn't good,” she added with a laugh, “but we didn't want people to feel like they were getting lectured to.”
“My favorite location,” Beaver told me, “was ‘The Pit’, as the collection area for San Francisco’s garbage is called. The name alone reminds me of ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ [Edgar Allen Poe’s 1842 short story].”
“Like in Poe’s story, this pit is the end of the road: Here lies the final repository of virtually everything made by our society,” he said, adding that, hopefully, SF’s Pit will be the end of another road: zero waste.
“What we want to get rid of and forget now stands exposed, like the scene in Tarkovsky’s ‘
’ , where the camera glides over a tiled floor covered with objects that typify our society—a hypodermic needle, a gun.”
“That’s how I felt about the Pit. I was accompanied by Poe and Tarkovsky,” continued Beaver, who was previously covered by CineSource, see
. “PS, I’m not kidding. I had both in mind as I filmed.”
Robert Haley watching the seagulls at SF's garbage—now recycling center—'The Pit'. photo: courtesy C. Beaver
"My favorite [shooting] venue was the Mission Pet Hospital,” Producer Fuller told me. Although a facility for animals, "it had the ideal setup for medical waste separation and processing.”
“It is important to note,” she added, “in every major scene, a mantra is repeated that mirrors nature's process: Close the loop."
The film features "64 personalities, plus 32 from the Children's Day School, plus 32 associated with the production team,” according to Fuller, “and approximately 150 contributed financial support.”
Matter Of Trust
, Recology, CleanWorld, GreenCitizen, WasteBusters and
. UC Davis BioGas provided ecological experts.
of San Francisco also backed the project, and the film has garnered showings at festivals like the Cleveland International, the Mendocino, the 5th San Francisco Green and the Global Peace Festival in Orlando, Florida.
After an upcoming July 24 private screening on the Facebook campus, there will be an August 6th screening in Berkeley at the
David Brower Center
'Racing to Zero"'s director Christopher Beaver. photo: courtesy C. Beaver
"’Racing to Zero’ reframes the conversation—not around what waste is—but what waste can be: a resource to us all,” summarizes Dr. Jeff Wilson, an Environmental Studies professor as well as the dean at the Huston-Tilltson University in Austin.
“I've seen how these sort of transformational conversations in education can be the impetus towards a new awakening. ‘Zero Waste’ is a journey as much as a destination, and students would enjoy watching this film."
America desperately needs an inspiring blueprint for other cities and states to follow. If San Francisco, this open-source, idea-sharing city, is trailblazing well enough, perhaps the US can reach zero waste by 2050.
Jay Randy Gordon
is The MARINsider, the author of '
' and the founder of
and can be reached
Posted on Jul 21, 2015 - 02:52 PM