This afternoon I saw the premier of "No Impact Man" - the film that chronicles a year long experiment of one New York City family in reducing. and ultimately having zero, impact. Colin Beavan is a writer, one who would much rather have what he writes about impact the world in a positive way. He has his "No Imact Man" blog set up to keep the world up to date on the family's progress as they give up buying anything new, eating out at restaurants, and eventually shutting off electricity to their apartment.
I've probably seen 30-40 screenings at the 16 Sundance Festivals that I've attended - I've seen powerful and important films, entertaining films, and a couple of stinkers over that time. This film is probably the most enjoyable of the lot. It has that rare combination of being able to make you laugh and yet inspire you to take action.
I admit that I'm a sucker for the type of experiment that Beavan and his family undertake. I did a two year tv-less experiment in the 1990s (and our family has done a tv-less lent for the past 3 years). I gave up driving the car to work in September 2007 (except for 1 day every two weeks when I have to get a 400 piece mailing to a business post-office several miles away.) I gave up meat 14 years ago, and soda 21 days ago. Far from feeling deprived, I generally find such shifts to be liberating and enlightening. It seems that these types of experiements are becoming more frequently the subjects of books. It's kind of like the reality-show of book world, but with the goal of producing positive change.
While the idea of "No Impact Man" is the brainchild of Colin Beavan, his wife Michelle steals the show. She is an everywoman who loves coffee and shopping, and seems to be reluctant to participate and do without. It's her milestones and her transformations that feel the most profound in the story. She's also the one (along with their adorable toddler daughter) who makes you laugh as she reveals the ways in which she occasionally "cheats" on the project. The film also explores the negative feelings and comments that Colin and Michelle inspire in many people with their experiment.
Colin and Michelle were present at the screening as well as one of the filmmakers, Justin Schein. Schein told the audience at the Rose Wagner Theatre during the Q & A that Colin and Michelle had asked them as filmmakers to use sustainable methods in the making of the film. No lights were used, for example, and rechargeable 9-volt batteries were used for the wireless mikes. I cornered Michelle after the film and asked her what they really DID use instead of toilet paper (a much referenced point in the film).
Ultimately, the film is inspiring. Some radical changes are going to have to happen if we want the human race to survive. Seeing "No Impact Man" has invigorated my resolve to live as lightly on the earth as possible, and given me a few good ideas in the process. And some of it, like more quality time with friends, family, and New York, looks downright fun.