Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, May 17: BIDDER 70
Beth and George Gage’s portrait of the consequences of civil disobedience had its world premiere at the 2012 Mountainfilm in Telluride, winning an award. It went on to screen at numerous festivals, including Cleveland, Human Rights Watch, Washington DC Environmental, Mill Valley, and Traverse City, picking up an award at the latter as well.
During the end of the Bush administration, a shady federal auction threatened thousands of acres of Utah wilderness with destructive drilling in the name of fossil fuels. Concerned about the lack of transparency to the process, college student Tim DeChristopher attended, and, on the spur of the moment, decided to begin bidding for the land, winning 22,000 acres at the cost of nearly $2 million – with no intention of drilling or ability to pay. He did this as a conscious act of civil disobedience, disrupting a process he believed to be unjust, and willing to face the consequences. The Gages’ film quickly relates this already well-publicized background and then moves on to follow DeChristopher as he becomes the catalyst for a grassroots climate justice movement, and as he waits for his day in court after numerous postponements. While the former serves as a hopeful development, scenes of scrappy protest sign painting and demonstrations by DeChristopher’s Peaceful Uprising activist group often feel like filler and take on a cheesy edge with some poor music choices. More compelling are the pre-trial developments about the illegality of the auction and comments from his attorney about potential defense strategy, but these are given shortshrift. Still, sharing DeChristopher’s story is really the point of his act of disruption – as his defense attorney reminds us, the point of civil disobedience is to force others to examine their own conscience and to inspire change, even at the cost of one’s own personal liberty – and, to that extent, the Gages’ film delivers.