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Sundance Film Festival turns deeper green

Almost everything at the key gathering for independent film backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute has gone eco-friendly, eco-conscious or just plain eco-crazy.
/ Source: Reuters

When former U.S. Vice President Al Gore premiered documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, he inspired not only greater awareness of global warming, but the general greening of this top movie event.

Two years later, almost everything at the key gathering for independent film backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute has gone eco-friendly, eco-conscious or just plain eco-crazy.

That idea is true not only for movies, such as director Josh Tickell's "Fields of Fuel" about U.S. dependency on fossil fuels and the potential of biodiesel to replace gasoline, but for a host of marketers hawking products from environmentally friendly boots to hybrid cars.

Backers of green technologies like Tickell see nothing but upside potential to being at Sundance amid the crush of television and newspaper reporters that turn out annually for the stargazing in this mountain town east of Salt Lake City.

"Sundance is really not about 'Fields of Fuel,' per se. It is about generating awareness in the media about what is possible" to combat global warming, Tickell said.

To back up his words, Tickell enlisted non-profit group Earth Pledge, which consults with filmmakers on reducing carbon output and acquiring carbon off-sets to make their films carbon neutral. Oscar contender "There Will Be Blood" was one film that voluntarily offset its environmental damages.

Earth Pledge also is at Sundance spreading its eco-conscious word as a participant in Project Greenhouse, sponsored by automaker Lexus and its new hybrid car technology. It is just one of several "lounges" that have brought companies with eco-friendly products to the snowy streets of Park City.

Corrin Arasa, founder of Project Greenhouse, said they had originally expected to make a big impact by attracting media attention with visits from stars such as former "Friends" actor Matthew Perry. But Arasa said the biggest influence may be on non-celebrities who simply want to learn to be "green."

"We've reached a ton of people who are socially and environmentally conscious, which was a different success than we had expected," Arasa said.

At The Village at the Yard lounge, bootmaker Timberland has set up shop to promote footwear made of recycled products including scrap rubber from cutting treads in boots.

A spokesman said the company has expanded corporate efforts aimed at environmental consciousness by installing energy generating solar panels on its California distribution center.

"If you're manufacturing products in factories, it is difficult to make a small footprint, but I think we're making good strides," said Timberland spokesman Brian Coleman.

While Sundance does not sponsor product marketers here, the festival too has become increasingly eco-conscious, and along with "Fields of Fuel," several of the films here reflect U.S. society's growing concern about the environment in the wake of "An Inconvenient Truth."

"Flow — For Love of Water," documents the precarious relationship between people and water, and examines the growing rate of depletion of the most precious of natural resources. "Half-Life" is a fictional film telling of a future time period of natural disasters and poor air quality.

In the festival's New Frontier section for video art and performance pieces, Marina Zurkow is showing an animated installation dealing with ocean pollution and melting polar ice caps, and "DJ Spooky" Paul Miller is performing his piece that portrays the transformation of the Antarctica.