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Greater goodness

The Global Peace Film Festival is back and weirder than ever

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The treatment of the subject matter in this film, though, is pure psychological thriller: Ghostlike images of men in hard hats working in dark tunnels on a mysterious project, a narrator who speaks in cryptic warnings about the dangers posed by the work being done here, emotionless men and women being interviewed about the moral and ethical obligations of how – or even whether – to explain to future generations the nature of the deadly substance that scientists buried beneath the earth’s surface.

It took Danish director Michael Madsen (not the same Madsen who appeared in Reservoir Dogs) nine months of negotiation with lawyers to gain access to the site where this project is actually underway (and has been since the 1970s). Called Onkalo – which means “hiding place” – the nuclear burial site is scheduled for completion in the 2100s, and it’s hoped that it will remain stable through any number of major catastrophes that will likely take place on the earth’s surface between now and, oh, the next 100,000 to one million years.

What’s most interesting about this documentary – aside from Madsen’s almost surreal and stylized treatment of the material and the very notion that a project like this exists at all – is that it takes no advocacy stance on the subject of nuclear energy. This treatment gives him the freedom to deal with the film artistically, rather than journalistically. It can be a little confounding to watch, at first. But in some ways, it also makes it possible to appreciate the ephemeral nature of our civilization. – ES

Passionate Politics: The Life & Work of Charlotte Bunch

The titular figure at the center of this effusive and bland documentary, women’s rights activist Charlotte Bunch, has bona fides up the wazoo: She founded the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and was picked by then-President Bill Clinton to receive the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in 1999. Bunch protested segregation in the ’60s and is a major player in the GLBT fight. In other words, she’s a certified Good Person. The problem: That doesn’t exactly make for compelling drama, and director Tami Gold glosses over opportunity after opportunity to find the stuff. We only glimpse the pain behind her decision to leave her loving husband once she realized she was gay, and if she had a difficult childhood, she’s clearly not up to revealing it. What’s left is an hour of cinematic standing ovations as dull and glowing as the film’s title. – JS

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