By Caroline Lewis
Hurricane Sandy hit New York just a month ago and yesterday, Josh Fox (Academy Award- nominated director of 2010’s Gasland) released his short documentary, Occupy Sandy, in the same fast, unconventional way that the Occupy Sandy relief effort popped up after the storm.
People were led via text message to the site of the film’s “guerrilla movie premiere,” which was ultimately revealed less than half an hour before the film began. Fox was still making edits on the latest version.
On the wall of a Mobil gas station, The Illuminator (the mobile projector that has been called Occupy’s “bat signal”) projected the film, as audience members, including people from affected communities, munched on popcorn.
NY Press pulled Fox aside after the movie to talk about the state government’s attitude towards climate change, the role of Occupy Sandy, and plans to re-purpose more gas stations into movie theaters.
NY PRESS: So Sandy hit just about a month ago and you already have this film out. When did you know you were making this film?
JOSH FOX: Oh, like a week ago. I mean, this was something very fast. It’s not polished. It’s sort of like, we need to get the word out that this incredible disaster relief effort has come out of the Occupy Movement and what amazing work that they’re doing. And I had an afternoon – like a very rare Sunday afternoon off. And I was sitting in my studio in Brooklyn and I was like, “You know what, I’ve heard a lot about this, let me just walk in there with a camera.’
I walked in the door and was just blown away by what they were doing. I said, ‘I have to go with them on some of these runs.’ I went to Sheepsheadbay, went to the Rockaways, and just met extraordinary people. And also just for myself, to see the damage… it is unforgettable. And to know that this is climate change in real and human terms.
Occupy Sandy is a disaster relief organization of the moment, but it’s also about the root causes of the disaster. You don’t go ahead and say, ‘Oh this is just a thing where we deliver food and water and heaters.’ This is about, ‘No, we have to address climate change.’
That’s why I come to a Mobil Station and show it on the wall. Go directly to the fossil fuel industry and say, ‘If it’s business as usual for you guys, we’re going to see New York flooded again and again and again. And it’s time for you guys to realize that you’re putting us all in peril.’
So what do you think needs to happen to go from Governor Cuomo recognizing that climate change is happening to having something actually be done about it?
Well, I really think this is a moment of change for the government. I mean, obviously, Governor Cuomo stepped out amidst this wall of climate silence right before the presidential election and broke the silence.
And now I think he and everyone else need to understand two very basic things. One, renewable energy can run the world. On existing technology. We have enough wind and sun to power everything that we need in this United States. And two, that it’s an economic engine that people can participate in at every level – at the corporate level, at the personal level, and it needs to be encouraged through leveling the playing field at the government level.
So, this is where we have to be, what we have to do. When we have hurricanes that are supercharged by global warming, we have to plan for a different way of organizing our economy.
Your film Gasland obviously had a considerably larger release and started a national conversation about hydraulic fracturing and agitated a lot of people in the natural gas industry. Do you have any plans to make a longer movie about this?
Well, we’re making Gasland 2, which does address issues of climate change. Fracking and natural gas is one of the worst fuels, in terms of its greenhouse emissions profile – both carbon and methane. And for this governor and the mayor of this city to be acknowledging publicly that climate change is a huge problem and, at the same time, still considering a huge drilling campaign throughout all of New York state, is a contradiction in terms.
Hopefully, when they realize, ‘Oh, we’re really at risk here,’ [they'll say], ‘We have to move towards renewable energy and completely abolish the thought of more fossil fuel production in NY state.’
There are two main points that you made in the movie: one, that people need to be held accountable for what happened, and two, that government agencies and established, large non-profits are not the ones that stepped in, but rather Occupy. Do you think that those organizations are really equipped or flexible enough to do what Occupy did?
Well, I don’t think it’s about saying anything bad about FEMA or the City at all. I think what this is saying is, acknowledge the brilliant work that’s being done person to person. The brilliant new model that’s being created here of mutual aid, not charity.
Mutual aid is people giving to people. Charity is rich people giving to poor people. This is coming from within those communities and I think it’s an acknowledgment of how we have to engage a whole new structure.
You know, Occupy Wall Street was dealing with a disaster also – the disaster of the banking collapse and the housing collapse. This is their environmental disaster relief. And I think what we’re finding here is we’re building a new community and a new way of talking about politics.
Would you ever do this kind of guerrilla release again?
Absolutely. Sure, I think once we’ve started to convert the gas stations and the other infrastructure in the fossil fuel industry to movie theaters and other things that people like, it’ll be easier.
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