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Review: 'A Fierce Green Fire' recounts environmental struggle

The film recounts seminal events in the ecological battle. Robert Redford and Meryl Streep are among the narrators.

March 14, 2013|By Gary Goldstein
(First Run Features )

A kind of crash course in 50-plus years of environmentalism, the documentary "A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet," adapted from the book by Philip Shabecoff, proves a worthy reminder of how much has been done to help heal our planet's ecological woes as well as how much remains to be achieved.

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Writer-director Mark Kitchell ("Berkeley in the Sixties") efficiently divides the film into five acts — "Conservation," "Pollution," "Alternatives," "Going Global" and "Climate Change" — narrated, respectively, by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep. These occasionally overlapping chapters, arranged largely in chronological order, powerfully recount a host of seminal events in the battle for environmental awareness: the founding of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, 1970's first Earth Day, the Save the Whales campaign, the Love Canal disaster, Chico Mendes' fight to preserve the Amazon rain forest and more.

Stirring interviews, new and archival, with these movements' participants, plus discussions with authors, advocates and ecological visionaries, reinforce the hyper-commitment that's been needed to effect grand-scale change.

But it's a look back at how, starting in 1969, then-President Nixon heartily passed a bipartisan series of environmental protection reforms (summarily undercut in the 1980s by the Reagan administration) that, for many, may prove this film's most startling takeaway.

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"A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet."

No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

At Landmark's Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.

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