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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sundance movie recap: No Impact Man

No Impact Man

Category: Documentary Spotlight

Directors: Laura Gabbert, Justin Schein

U.S.A., 2008, 90 minutes

click to enlarge Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, wheeling his family around New York.
  • Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, wheeling his family around New York.

There's a good chance you've heard of author Colin Beavan. He's the "psychotic" tree hugger who decided to force his Starbucks-loving wife and baby daughter through a year without electricity, toilet paper and nonlocal food. Now, he's the Morgan Spurlock of environmentalism.

Beavan is the brains behind noimpactman.typepad.com. He's neither psychotic nor a self-promoter as many articles and media entities have painted him to be, just an aw-shucks kind of guy looking to make a difference.

No Impact Man follows the Beavan family's journey as the three embrace his new book idea: Can a family living in a metropolitan area exist for one year without any environmental impact? That means no food bought from outside the region, no items bought in packaging, and, after six months, it even means flipping off the power to the Beavan family's ninth story New York apartment.

Beavan, of course, embraces the challenge with open arms. His contrary wife Michelle, however, ultimately provides balance for both her idealist husband and the film itself. While Beavan charges forth into community farming projects, learning new ways to cook beets, and discovering creative alternatives for powering his laptop, Michelle suffers for her husband’s passion. She misses her shopping, iced lattes, and that reassuring sense of hygiene that comes with using toilet paper regularly.

To give away much more would spoil the film's impact, but know that you’ll appreciate and enjoy the Beavans' struggles from the cloth diapers to the traditional refrigerator that wasn't meant to be, and, perhaps, be moved to embrace similar changes. That's an impact Beavan would be happy to leave.

Rating: A

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