Planet in Focus Film Festival

5 films to watch at the 2011 Planet in Focus Film Festival

The 12th Annual Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival starts tomorrow. With over 80 films, it's Canada's biggest environmental-themed film festival, and it all takes place right here in Toronto. For five days, films will be screening at a variety of downtown locations, including those with a little bit of Hollywood punch, like The Whale, which was produced by Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson. There will also be lots of Canadian content — not surprising given the topic. The following are my five must-see screenings from the festival.

Revenge of the Electric Car (October 12, 7pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox)

This sequel to Who Killed the Electric Car is a perfect selection for the Opening Night Gala. The prior film covered the sudden removal of the electric car from the market, despite demand and technological advancements that made it a feasible option. The critique blamed the oil companies for lobbying against the car, but now, several years later, the electric car is making a comeback and this time it looks to be for good.

Screening with Standing Wave, a National Parks Project film. Director Kevin McMahon will be in attendance to receive the 2011 Canadian Eco Hero Award.

The Clean Bin Project (October 13, 10:00am at the ROM; October 15, 11:30am at the Al Green Theatre)

The Clean Bin Project follows two people as they compete to produce the least amount of waste in one year. Over the course of the experiment they learn how to live sustainably (ever wanted to make your own toothpaste?), and they discover the shocking amount of garbage that gets thrown out everyday. The doc has already won the hearts of critics, picking up Best Canadian Documentary at the Projecting Change Film Festival, and a MOBI Award for Excellence in Journalism and Media.

Brick by Brick: The Story of the Evergreen Brick Works (October 15, 4:15pm at the ROM)
I mostly know the Evergreen Brick Works as a place to get great food, especially at the recently founded Toronto Underground Market, but the history of the site remains the subject of some fascination for me. Brick by Brick follows the story behind the building's revitalization as Geoff Cape turns it into sustainable urban playground while at the same time preserving the original architectural heritage.

The Polar Explorer (October 15, 5:30pm at the Al Green Theatre)

I have to admit, documentaries that explore remote parts of the world are one of my guilty pleasures. As such, I've watched the Planet Earth series more than a few times. But it looks like there's a new doc that'll enter my late night rotation: The Polar Explorer is one of those films that I could watch over and over again. Due to climate change, ice that previously made parts of the north and south poles inaccessible, has now melted away. The Polar Explorer takes 10 scientists into the northwest passage to study parts of the world never seen before.

Darwin (October 15, 9:30pm at the ROM)

Darwin is the strangest of my picks. It's about a life I can't fathom living. Not just the name of the father of evolutionary biology, Darwin is also an isolated community of 35 people in Death Valley, California. They live off the grid and reject North American social conventions in a manner similar to those who lived on communes throughout the states in the 1960s. Each member has quite a unique story about how they got there, and the film offers a intriguing portrait of this strand of the American counter culture. The scenery is pretty stunning, too.

Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival runs from October 12-16. Ticket prices range from $5 to $22 for single tickets, and $40 to $130 for passes. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (1.416.599.8433), and at the door.

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