How do you stump a college student? Ask them where their leftovers go.
In this video that photojournalism student Han Cheung made for his micro-documentary class, we take a look inside the campus dining composting system at the Bradford Research Center, right here at Mizzou. To see more of Han’s work, please visit www.hancheung.com.
The Queen of Versailleswas one of the most talked about films at this year’s True/False Film Festival, here in Columbia, MO. The documentary film centers around the Siegel family who exemplifies how a rags to riches life can lead to insanely conspicuous over consumption. The film primarily follows time share resort mogul David Siegel’s third wife, 43-year-old-Jacqueline “Jackie” Siegel as she runs her family of 8 children and live in staff of 23 in the family’s 26,000 square foot home while their 90,000 square foot home is under construction. At the same time, 76-year-old-David struggles to save his company from the economic downturn.
At the start of the film it’s quite obvious that this is a documentary about an obscenely wealthy family building America’s largest home, but it quickly becomes a documentary about the effect the economic down turn had on people whose lives were completely centered around consumption. Even David Siegel’s business is centered around selling consumption to other people. Siegel owns Westgate Resorts, which he claims in the film is the largest time share resort company in the world with a whopping 20 resorts under it’s umbrella. It sells the time shares to people who Siegel admits can’t afford them and who are allowed to put as little as 10% down and take out a loan for the other 90% of the cost of a time share. This is led Westgate into trouble when the economy tanked, the ability to get loans disappeared, and the company still owed $240 million on their newly constructed resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Meanwhile we learn Jackie’s backstory; a woman with a lower middle class upbringing who worked her way through college to become an engineer at IBM before divorcing her abusive husband and entering into the modeling industry to become Miss Florida where she meets David Siegel, becoming his third wife. It quickly becomes clear not only that Jackie and David were building their 90,000 square foot because they could but that every aspect of Jackie’s life revolved around acquiring things just because she can.
At point in the film Jackie notes that growing up, she never thought she would ever have more than one child, but once she found out she could have a nanny, she didn’t see any reason to stop having children, leading to the 7 that she had with David. When she’s not toting her children around in her massive SUV, Jackie is driven about in limousines or her husband’s Rolls Royce, and makes frequent trips to McDonald’s and the hair and nail salon. There are also numerous shopping trips for everything from toys for her children (despite their home being filled with hundreds of toys that the children clearly don’t play with), pets (which the Siegels have dozens of), clothing, and antique and furniture items to fill the family homes with.
The Siegel’s are not bad people, though. Far from it, their 8th child is actually Jackie’s niece who they adopted when her parents could no longer provide her with a stable home. David is also quite proud of his charitable endeavors, the number of friends and family who he helps, and the number of jobs his company provides to people. David, and one of his sons who helps run part of Westgate even say that they are selling people vacations that make the people happier.
Unfortunately for the Siegels it all falls apart when the economy takes a dive. The family takes out a mortgage on the 90,000 square foot home (they had initially been paying cash for the project) before putting it on the market for $100 million, then lays off 19 of the 23 people working in their smaller home, not to mention the 7,000 people laid off from Wesgate. From there we see the home life of the family quickly unravel.
Some of the children’s pets die of neglect, the house is a mess, and Jackie jokes that the children may now have to attend college in case David doesn’t have money for them (David later makes the comment that they may not be able to afford college as he hadn’t set aside any money for them). We also see a deeper side to David as he becomes visibly frustrated with the excess that Jackie and the children take for granted. It becomes clear even to the children that David views Jackie as a “trophy wife” and doesn’t respect her as an equal partner in their marriage. When director Lauren Greenfield asks David if he get’s strength from his marriage he says he doesn’t and that being married to Jackie is like having another child.
In the end, Westgate sells a controlling interest in it’s Las Vegas resort and the company, as well as the Siegel family is saved, so to speak. David expresses remorse admitting that he was greedy and that he would have had 15 resorts instead of 20 if he could do it all over again.
Overall, Greenfield’s documentary is a new kind of reality TV show. It’s not one in which the viewer observes superficial “real house wives” in constant alcohol induced cat fights, but one where the viewer gets a hard look at an actual family with actual self-inflicted problems that they must deal with. No one could quite place their finger on why, but many of the people I spoke with after seeing the film noted, not only that they felt sympathy for the Siegels, but that they even identified with them on some level, that’s something you would never hear regarding reality television. The film’s merit comes from it’s compelling insight into the fragility of the American family unit, the effects of an ailing economy on the wealthy, and the markedly visible representation of the problems over consumption can cause in general. The real question the film raises, in my opinion, is how sustainable is the lifestyle that more than embraces a consumption based economy?
Guest post by Britt Hultgren, a member of the True/False Film Festival’s “get the word out” dream team.
The documentaries are nearly upon us! For it’s ninth consecutive year, the True/False Film Fest returns to Columbia. From March 1-4, 2012, T/F will rock this town with entertaining and enlightening documentary films, great music, fun parties, and fantastic people from all around the world.
Come one, come all–but don’t expect droll; these documentaries are the bees knees, my friends.
For most of us, “getting your feet wet” is pithy turn of phrase. But for recently deposed President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, it’s no quip–it’s literally sink or swim for his island chain. The reality of a changing global climate has threatened the existence of his nation, and he is bound and determined to do what he can to prevent that from happening.
The film’s description from the T/F website:
The Maldives, a tropical paradise for tourists in the Indian Ocean, faces a big problem. Global warming has led to rising ocean levels, leaving the hundreds of tiny islands that make up the country at risk of disappearing. President Mohamed Nasheed is on a mission to stop this from happening. With extraordinary access, filmmaker Jon Shenk documents the challenges of Nasheed’s first year in office, which also include the struggles to build democratic government after years of brutal military rule. A former political prisoner himself, the charismatic Nasheed knows how to get attention, holding a cabinet meeting underwater for the press. Yet he is no show pony, as his game changing, impassioned speech at the Copenhagen Climate Summit makes clear. As he puts it, “It won’t be any good to have a democracy if we don’t have a country.” Beautiful cinematography and a haunting soundtrack by Radiohead deepen this urgent real-life drama.
(While at COP15 in Copenhagen, I recall hearing President Nasheed speak a couple of times throughout the conference. He was driven, eloquent, and cogent–the guy seemed to be the real deal. I am very excited to see this film and see how well they captured his back story and continuing struggle against climate change.)
When and Where?
True / False showtimes and locations for The Island President:
Friday, Mar 2 / 7:00PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 3 / 10:30AM / Jesse
Sunday, Mar 4 / 12:30PM / Missouri Theatre
How can I see the film?
You can see the film by way of getting a pass or a ticket. Basically, a pass will give you a better opportunity to participate in a whole lot more than a single film (eg multiple films, parties, special events), but if you’d like to just see the movie, you can get an individual ticket starting 1 March at 12pm.
The process of pasteurization was first discovered in the 1800s by Louis Pasteur, a French scientist. Pasteurized milk is heating milk to a certain high temperature in order to kill any bacteria within the milk possibly passed on through the dairy cow it came from. Most milk and milk products sold in the United States in commercial grocery stores contain pasteurized milk or cream. Pasteurization kills many bacteria such as ones that cause diseases.
Milk and milk based products naturally contain both good and bad bacteria. Some of the good bacteria is found in yogurt and promote gastrointestinal health. Harmful bacteria may get into milk due to cross contamination with feces or other byproducts. These bad bacteria flourish in milk since it is a prime growing spot due to all of its natural nutrients. These pathogens cause complications especially in persons with compromised immune systems including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Due to this nature of milk to harbor bad bacteria, milk is pasteurized to kill it and maintain human health. After pasteurization, milk should be kept in cold temperatures to help prevent spoilage and keep milk safe to drink.
The FDA recommends against the consumption of unpasteurized or raw milk or milk products. There have been several instances of endemics where a small number of people have gotten sick and has been linked to the consumption of raw milk. Therefore, laws have been past banning the sale of raw milk in some states but in most, a ban of transporting raw milk across state lines. There have been many scientific studies conducted concluding that raw milk does not have specific health benefits over pasteurized milk.
Raw milk has its own advocates which generally does not include anyone with significant power. Most advocates are farmers and small local farmer markets. Proponents of raw milk claim that the process of pasteurization destroys naturally occurring nutrients, good bacteria, and useful enzymes for calcium absorption.
A recent documentary titled Farmageddoninvestigates the issue. Across the country, small independent raw milk producers have been shut down and had their entirety of their products seized, thereby halting their ability to make money. These farmers have been blamed for e.coli and salmonella outbreaks without strong evidence. The belief put forth in the documentary is that it is the FDA’s way of showing the population that it is acting against food-borne illnesses. These farmers probably have the best treated dairy cows in the nation by allowing them to eat grass (their natural food) and kept in the most sanitary conditions. In comparison to the large farms that are subsidized by the government who keep their cows in overcrowded barn factories where animals are kept in less than sanitary conditions and force fed corn because it is abundant, cheap, and more efficient.
As mentioned before, most of the dangerous illnesses contracted come from milk (or meat) that has come in contact with fecal matter. This scenario is much more likely to occur on the large farm rather than the small family farm. Consumers who have made the switch from pasteurized milk to raw milk have contended that it has great health benefits including eliminating allergies and lactose intolerance. There are no formal studies confirming these beliefs. Raw milk advocates contend that due to returning the cow to the pastures nature intended it to feed off of, the cows and their byproducts contain a much more complex system of good bacteria and nutrients helpful for the cow to grow happier and the persons it feeds to cope better with the complex sugars contained within. Most raw milk supporters do not support raw milk from corn fed cows however due to the natural turn to organic and natural.
The PedNet Coalition is sponsoring this film about Race Across America, a 3000-mile bike race that challenges riders to pedal across the country in just ten days. Looks pretty rad. Inspiring, even. Shoot, I watched this and then biked to school this morning. Take a look. Oh, and word on this street is that the film sold out in St. Louis. Do it while it’s hot.
Bicycle Dreams documentary film
Thursday, February 2
The Blue Note
Doors open at 6pm Show at 7pm
Tickets: $11 in advanced/$15 at the door
The Work of 1000 is a 30-minute documentary film that tells the inspiring story of Marion Stoddart, a citizen leader committed to a lifetime of grassroots organizing and coalition building around her local Massachusetts river.
The movie will be shown Tuesday, January 17 at 7:00PM in the Wrench Auditorium of Memorial Union South. Marion Stoddart will be at the screening and will lead a discussion about her experiences. Filmmaker Susan Edwards (a Mizzou graduate) will also be on hand to discuss the film. The showing is free with a suggested donation.
In the early 1960s, Marion Stoddart was a housewife and mother of three who decided to take on the impossible–cleaning up the Nashua River, which ran through her town and was then one of the 10 most polluted rivers in the country. During her years of advocacy, Marion organized a massive citizen effort to rescue the river. She lobbied successfully for legislation, including the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act which was the first State clean water legislation in the country and a precursor to the national Clean Water Act and the development of the Environmental Protection Agency. Continuing that record of success, she petitioned the Federal government for millions of dollars of promised funds to fight the pollution–and won. Her dramatic success in mobilizing the community showed people that change was possible, even though they’d lost hope. Today, thanks to the efforts of Marion and the Nashua River Watershed Association (the non-profit she founded), the river is clean and restored, with wildlife thriving and children swimming.
Documentary director Michael Madsen worries about our generation’s effect on the future of humanity. “Into Eternity” addresses the audience in the future.
The film follows the ongoing construction of the Onkalo Waste Repository on the island of Olkiluoto, Finland. Phase one began in 2004, and consists of the construction of a large access tunnel going down 420 meters into the earth. In 2009 phase two tunneled down to 520 meters. The project is expected to be complete in 2020, and will have enough space to hold waste until 2120.
In 2120, the final encapsulation will take place.
Once sealed, the repository must be left unopened for 100,000 years, at which time the nuclear waste will no longer be toxic. Madsen worries about the safety of future generations discovering the repository and opening it before it is safe. 100,000 years is longer than any human made structure has ever lasted.
All the directors of the repository had to say to future generations was, “good luck.”
Michael Madsen’s film brought to light a huge issue of the modern era. What do we do with our toxic nuclear waste? Burying it underground is a present day solution to save us from the toxic waste. How can we ensure the future generations will not discover Onkalo? Madsen questions whether markers should be left to let future generations know that what they have discovered is dangerous. The fear is that the future generations will believe they have found the pyramids of our time.
It is devastating to think that we have to say “good luck” to the future. Our generation should not leave our world in ruins, threatening the survival of the future. This powerful film made me aware of the problem with nuclear waste disposal and made me fearful for the lives of those in the future. This is an important issue that many are not aware of. But one we must be aware of for the sake of the future.
This film brings a future crisis to the present day. “Into Eternity” forces us to think about the consequences of our lifestyles, and the affect it will have on the future.