Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Windfall" the movie



By Colin Covert, Star Tribune, Minnesota

4 out of 4 stars

Wind power was supposed to be the free lunch of green energy; Laura Israel's evenhanded documentary reminds us that everything comes at a cost. Focusing on an idyllic upstate New York farm town, she charts the community's growing disillusionment with the 40-story turbines. As the progressive locals learn about the giant fans' drawbacks -- flickering shadows, bird and bat kills and an incessant low-frequency hum -- town meetings turn contentious. The film isn't agenda-driven advocacy, but an invitation to think critically about an alternative energy source often presented as a panacea <universal remedy>. (U.S., 83 min.)

--Copyright © 2011 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

By Ann Hornaday, Washington Post 
With the Oscar-nominated “Gasland” (and its flame-throwing plumbing) enlightening viewers on the environmental and public health implications of natural gas drilling, and with nuclear power’s reputation in meltdown as a global community turns an anxious gaze toward Japan, some hardy souls may see hope in wind power. After seeing “Windfall,” those optimists will probably emerge with their faith, if not shaken, at least blown strongly off course.
“Windfall” takes place in Meredith, N.Y., a once-thriving dairy-farming community of fewer than 2,000 tucked into a bucolic Catskills valley that is teetering between post-agricultural poverty and hip gentrification. When Irish energy company Airtricity offers leases to build windmills on some residents’ properties, the deals initially seem like a win-win. A little extra money in the pockets of struggling farmers, an environmentally sound technology, those graceful white wings languorously slicing the afternoon sky — what’s not to like?
Plenty, as the concerned residents in “Windfall” find out. Not only do the 400-foot, 600,000-pound turbines look much less benign up close, but research has suggested that their constant low-frequency noise and the flickering shadows they cast affect public health; what’s more, they’ve been known to fall, catch fire and throw off potentially lethal chunks of snow and ice. 
Soon Meredith succumbs to drastic divisions between boosters, who see Airtricity’s offers as a godsend for the economically strapped community, and skeptics, who see the leases as little more than green-washed carpetbaggery. “Windfall” chronicles the ensuing, agonizing fight, which largely splits lifelong residents and the relatively new “downstaters,” who’ve moved in from Manhattan and want to keep their views and property values pristine.
...Wisely letting Meredith’s residents speak for themselves, the filmmaker avoids simple good-guy-bad-guy schematics, instead enabling each side to state its case.
Israel, a film editor making her feature debut here, has owned a cabin in Meredith for more than 20 years, a fact never made clear in “Windfall,” which is,
nonetheless, filmed with careful, dispassionate distance. In large part, the documentary follows Israel’s process of discovery. Although she wasn’t approached for a lease, she initially supported wind power in the community, she said in an interview. “I wanted a turbine on my property, which motivated me to learn more about it,” she explained. “A lot of the people in the film are illustrating the process I went through, from initial excitement to having it unravel as you find out more about the subject.”
Full review at

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