Emile Hirsch stars in “Into the Wild,” free at SMC on March 2.

For those who may doubt climate change, last week Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica had a 120 square mile block of ice, bigger than Atlanta, break off completely. Scientists predict that Pine Island could eventually raise sea levels all over the globe. Meanwhile our “Impeached Forever” POTUS says climate change could reverse itself, adding, “I’m good at predicting things like that.” (Somehow I don’t find that very comforting.)

What I do find comforting, however, is living in Santa Monica, a city committed to sustainability. I consider myself an environmentalist, albeit a somewhat lazy one. For example, 35 years ago I managed to convince ownership of the Shores 532-unit apartment complex and the city, for the first time ever, to bring recycling bins to the tenants. (And it was an immediate success!)

The process took 18 months but, to be honest, my motivation all along was being tired of driving my recyclables to the center on Michigan Avenue. (Plus, what’s the logic of using gas, i.e. fossil fuel, in the cause of helping?)

That brings me to Sheila Laffey, PhD D, who’s the complete opposite of lazy. Sheila’s an SMC Film Studies Adjunct Professor, an environmental activist and a film director/producer.

A week from Monday, on March 2, Sheila begins her 4th year as host of Green Screen Series of dramatic films and documentaries to entertain, inform and inspire people to participate in protecting the environment. The films are free to the public at SMC’s state of the art Center for Media and Design, equipped with an amazing screen and spacious seating. (But, unfortunately, there’s no popcorn.)

From March through May, there will be seven screenings but the first has a special Santa Monica connection. Into the Wild, written and directed by Sean Penn who was born and raised here, is a compelling 2007, Oscar-nominated film starring award-winning actor, Emile Hirsch. It’s the true story of Chris McCandless who, at 23, hiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness to find meaning in his life.

Hirsch, who will participate in a Q & A, after the film, also starred in the hit feature, Lords of Dogtown, based on the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z- Boys, which, coincidentally, was narrated by Penn. It traces a group of colorful and talented young surfers, many from Ocean Park’s mean streets known as Dogtown, and how they literally revolutionized skateboarding. (Hirsch was also featured in Milk, the 2008 movie that yielded a Best Actor Oscar for Penn.)

On March 30, the series resumes with two short movies produced by Laffey. We All Need the Forest is the story of a boy who meets the “Spirit of the Forest” and discovers ancient principles that help heal his ailing grandfather. In the Middle of the Sea tells the tale of two youngsters taken on a magical journey on a Hawaiian mountain.

April 6 is the screening of Love Thy Nature, winner of 26 awards and narrated by Oscar-nominated actor, Liam Neeson. The film explores ways to reconnect with the natural world. After the screening there will be discussion and Nature Therapy Outdoors with Director Sylvie Rokab.

On April 20, WILD be screened starring Oscar-winners Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. Wild is a biographical adventure film about one woman’s solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

The next in the series, on May 4, is the documentary, The Condor & the Eagle, followed by talk with Laffey and Students from SMC’s Brazil Club. The film follows four Indigenous leaders on an extraordinary transcontinental journey from the Canadian plains to deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle. Their hope is to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of “climate justice.”

On May 11, as Democratic and Republican Presidential Conventions approach, The Revolution Generation will be screened followed by a talk with director, Josh Tickell. Featuring Michele Rodriguez, the movie is a manifesto for today’s youth exploring ways to revolutionize political systems that have failed their generation. The film also includes SMC students.

The last in the 2020 Green Screen Series, will be the The River and the Wall, a fascinating film directed by Ben Masters, that will be shown on May 18th. The powerful and beautifully filmed documentary follows five friends on a journey of the U.S.-Mexico border along the Rio Grande to explore how a border wall can affect wildlife, immigration, landowners and public lands. Following the screening will be a discussion with Professor Laffey and students from SMC’s Natural History Club.

Once again, this remarkable series is open to the public and free of charge on Mondays at 3 pm at SMC’s Center for Media and Design, Auditorium 180 at 1660 Stewart Street. (And take it from me, the films are so compelling, you won’t even miss the popcorn.)

For more information, Google “Green Screen Series Santa Monica College.” Jack is at jackdailypress@aol.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Since “Into the Wild” has been around for years, I watched it because I’m a climate change junkie. I’ve read many of the books (more to go) related to climate change and a big supporter of Greta Thunberg’s activities.

    The only things I didn’t know about Sean Penn’s film endeavors is that I didn’t know that he was behind the film. More power to him if he’s also an environment activist.

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