Garbage Warrior
R1 - America - Morningstar Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (8th December 2008).
The Film

Oliver Hodge has been a member of the art department for many high-profile films such as "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999), and the James Bond film "Die Another Day" (2002). His debut as a director is "Garbage Warrior," which was inspired when Hodge came to realize that all of his efforts at recycling used art department materials were being negated by the massive waste and fuel use created by flying entire shooting sets - weighing many tons each - across the world.

Hodge soon discovered the work of Michael Reynolds, an architect who has been living in the desert near Taos, New Mexico for thirty-five years. Reynolds has spent his time in the wild creating what he calls Earthships, or completely self-sufficient houses. These houses are totally off the grid, generating their own electricity, growing their own food, and even recycling sewage to use as fertilizer. No wires or pipes come into or out of the house from the outside. Building materials are partly recycled materials, such as old tires, bottles, and cans. Not only does Reynolds have no bills to pay - no mortgage, no electricity or sewage bills, and a much reduced food cost - but his residence also does not create any carbon waste or otherwise damage the environment. Just like dumping your expensive and wasteful SUV pollution machine for a more responsible and also less expensive car, Reynolds' houses are a win-win situation for the owner and for the world.

As any remotely self-actualized individual has long since figured out, the way in which the Western world lives has got to change, radically and soon, lest the human race destroy this planet's ability to support us. Reynolds realized this decades ago, and has used his homes to show people that we can live both comfortably and in a responsible manner, all while telling the banks and utility companies to go to hell. Several entire New Mexico communities sprang up using Reynolds' ideas and designs.

The journey of our visionary architect has not always been smooth. In the 1990's, the state of New Mexico decided that they were going to shut down the successful and positive work that was happening. Because the Earthships were a new paradigm in home building that explored radical ideas in community planning (successfully), the suits and rule makers in New Mexico became agitated and stopped all building. Narrow visions, red tape, and greedy politicians saw to it that the big experiment in designing a possible future for all of us would be blocked. Mike eventually went to the state legislature, where he was met with ridiculous opposition.

When the 2006 tsunami raved the coasts along the Indian ocean, Mike traveled to the ravaged Andaman islands to help survivors build new houses, with great success. These people immediately realized the wisdom and practicality of the Earthship. Galvanized by his progress in India, Mike was able to come back to New Mexico with a renewed enthusiasm. With an ally in the senate, and an impassioned speech after hurricane Katrina, further progress was made, but the battle continues.

Video

Aspect ratio is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Hodge followed Reynolds around for three years to make this documentary. As a result the video quality varies wildly. We go from shaky and badly lit fly-on-the-wall footage to some lovely panoramic shots of the desert. Artifacts of the DVD authoring process are minimal, but the raw visual material here is uneven. As is the case in so many documentaries, this is a minor issue, and is no reason to skip this important film. Running time is 1:27:34, divided into 12 chapters.

Audio

The film is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. There is no real reason to have included a 5.1 mix here, as it is more or less the same as the stereo version. The power of this film is in the information being presented, the infuriating obstacles faced by a man pioneering methods to make things better for future generations. The story is not really enhanced in any way with surround effects.
There are no optional subtitles available on this disc.

Extras

Morningstar Entertainment have included an interview, a featurette and a couple of deleted scenes. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The interview with Michael Reynolds and director Oliver Hodge runs for 7 minutes 40 seconds; the men talk to a hostess on Al Jazeera television about their work.

"Dennis Weaver Talks About His Earthship' featurette runs for 3 minutes 20 seconds; Dennis talks about how much he loves his house.

There are a couple of deleted scenes included:

- "New Mexico" runs for 13 minutes 19 seconds; the crew talk about their houses.
- "Andaman Islands, India" runs for 14 minutes 17 seconds; the crew collects garbage for use as building materials.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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