Learning from Mountainfilm: Uranium Drive In

| Tags: Creativity

Our annual trip to Mountainfilm at Telluride over Memorial Day weekend here in the States was as gratifying as it was disturbing. Gratifying in the sense that once again we found ourselves stripped of the veneer of corporate defensiveness and confronted with the simple fact that a lot of people actually care about this planet and its people. The kind of jargon based personal denial that infuses the corporate world is absent at Mountainfilm as truth speaks to power, albeit in the comfort of one of America’s most privileged resort towns.

Disturbing in the sense that the song remains the same: A planet ravaged by humanity, climate change with only one outcome: mass extinction (including us) and a complete breakdown of social order, faith in democracy and hope for humanity. It is as though we are stuck in some kind of mutually assured madness as arguments for nuclear are pitted against arguments against, both faith based, neither effective.

Into this charged hyperbolic mix comes a near perfect documentary produced and directed by local film maker Suzan Beraza.

Imagine this: your small town economy was once fueled by a Uranium mine that provided employment and modest affluence. It also poisoned the land and its workers, many of whom are already dead, some of whom are slowly asphyxiating. The jobs went and so did the life of the town. Unemployment is high. The kids have ragged blankets and no socks, the local church provides a weekly meal for free. The meal is consumed by an alarming number of the towns citizens. Work is scarce, hope has gone.

Then the citizens of the town are offered the chance to regrow their town by reopening the Uranium mine. The citizens of wealthy Telluride campaign against the poisoning of the land and its people, the jobless campaign for their lives. What to do? In Beraza’s beautifully forthright examination of the dilemma no one comes away looking righteous. All are flawed, the rich more so than the poor in my opinion.

The rift is a microcosmic representation of the broader issue that pits the poor against the wealthy. No one represents the poor and the poor are the ones closest to the devastation than anyone, in fact they are a signal part of the devastation and remind us that the problems we face in terms of the environment and climate change are people problems not just abstracted notions of either beauty or Gaia.

The are no good guys in Uranium Drive In. Everyone is tortured. The obese corporate marionette, the zero BMI ski maven, the gothic fantasists and, above all, the failed government. All are in crisis. All are in a form of hell within which their authenticity has been sacrificed to a failed narrative. The pain is palpable as the dilemma turns to conflict and the community splits. The massive energy company goes to Utah where such problems were solved in favor of Mormon madness years ago and we are left in a state of high anxiety because while there are no good guys in this story, there are no bad guys either. It is the story that is wrong. It is the factionalization of our society that is wrong. We are now two Americas, the haves and the have nots. Neither gives anything to the other. It is a Capitalist ethic that defines success as material and, in consequence, condemns all parties to a relentlessly unfulfilling role and no solution to the twin problems of social and environmental harmony. The rich try to save the poor when in fact they need to learn from them. The poor feel victimized by the rich when in fact they should invite their participation in the solution to their problems. The system needs to facilitate both.

Uranium Drive In is a must see documentary that, for us, ended any lasting faith in a two party political system grounded in a capital v labor conflict. We need something else. A democratic system grounded in competing solutions to the only problem that now matters: the health of the world. In taking no sides it forces us to confront the horror of our own crisis: that we see no solution. Uranium Drive In challenges you to imagine a new discourse, not only to save all the players in this tragedy, even the corporate marionettes, but to also save yourself.