Sustainability is a hot topic right now and it’s one that Werner Boote has picked up for his latest documentary feature THE GREEN LIE. More and more people are becoming conscious of the implications of their consumerism, Twitter and Instagram are awash with healthy living influencers and on the fringes of this are the sustainability heroes: the ones who post pictures of their entire years’ consumption of plastic crammed into an old jam jar. It’s cool to care, ‘green’ behaviours are encouraged and climate change deniers are down there with the worst of the conspiracy theorists. As one person in this film says: ‘sustainability is sexy’.
In THE GREEN LIE Boote and his companion Kathrin Hartmann aim to expose the ways in which corporations attempt to ‘greenwash’ their image. The two make an interesting pair, with Boote playing the ignoramus, like a hybrid of Jeremy Clarkson and Louis Theroux. Hartmann is the know-it-all author who is there to teach Boote the error of his ways and point out all the ways he has been sucked in by marketing ploys.
The format is reminiscent of a Sacha Baron Cohen film, just without the stupidity. Boote mimics the innocent, but probing technique of the British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux, a technique designed to draw more from the people they are trying to expose. The act endangers the serious point they are trying to make, as the dialogue is heavily scripted and often detracts from the validity and apparent trustworthiness of their arguments. Having said that, the student and the teacher pairing makes for a comical film and leads to various instances of hilarious expressions of disbelief on the part of Boote. Baron Cohen is the master of this kind of approach, his characters aim to expose prejudices and ridicule the holders of those beliefs, at times in THE GREEN LIE it feels as if Boote is ridiculing the ‘green warriors’ but this is not his point.
“…the student and the teacher pairing makes for a comical film and leads to various instances of hilarious expressions of disbelief on the part of Boote.”
The film takes in various exotic locations, attempting to bring the impact of the coal, palm oil and crude oil corporations a little closer to home. Trips to Indonesia, the USA, Germany and Brazil are designed to expose the problems with globalisation and show the ways in which we not only consume products, but the lives and lands of others. Overall, the film does well to not appear too preachy in a film where they are practically preaching in every scene, and it’s the humorous self-reflective tone taken by Boote that enables this.
The way the film sets out to expose how consumers are being duped is quite disheartening, but Boote does his best to negate this feeling of hopelessness through the sheer warmth of his character. After taking the audience on an eye-opening journey through the realities of the effects of mass consumerism, Boote manages to wrap the film up on a tentatively positive note.
An interview with Noam Chomsky serves the purpose of exploring alternative outcomes for humankind and the final scenes incorporate examples of activists uniting and defeating those who seek to take advantage of them. Boote turns a fairly grim reading of humankind into a much more positive one and shows us that there is power in the collective.
Our thanks to Take One Action for providing Calam’s reviewer pass. The festival continues in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with more coverage of the films screened to be found here on TAKEONECinema.net.