TTJ’s film event on Nov 26 provided inspiration for a lifetime. Dancing with the Cannibal Giant and its producer, Chris Wood is currently touring the state, inspiring and motivating community dialogue and interaction. Chris was accompanied by Suzanne Richman, who facilitated a soulful discussion among the nearly thirty people who attended (from Jericho, Essex, and Williston as well as a sizable chunk from Transition Town Charlotte).
Chris introduced himself, saying he was motivated by the film Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community from director Ann Macksoud of Old Dog Films. While that film presented the grave problems we’re facing, Chris was interested in solutions and asked Macksoud to direct Dancing.... Indeed, the first fifteen minutes are excerpts from Wisdom..., followed by Five New Stories for the Great Transition (subtitle of his film) describing inspirational communities/solutions.
Interspersed throughout the film are great quotes from young people “(Activism) is not a fight, but a more joyful existence” to local heroes like UVM’s Stephanie Kaza, “Hope is having a steady mind, and willingness to be present” to maven Joanna Macy ”If you want an adventure, what a time to be alive!” to the literary, “perhaps it’s beauty that will save the earth”-Dostoyevski.
Sherri Mitchell, of the Penobscot tribe, is an omnipresence in the film; there is footage of her talks where she describes the myth of the Cannibal Giant Gilyuk, who is asleep in the forest and awakened when Mother Earth is in distress. Gilyuk’s role is to lull humanity into a false sense of security, consuming themselves to death so Mother Nature can recover. Sherri said that humanity is awakening now, traveling through the long dark birth canal. We can choose to either stay in the dark, or be the midwives to a new way of being.
The first New Story filmed was the Metta Earth Institute, founded by Gillian and Russell Comstock in Lincoln, Vermont. Providing immersions and workshops for groups of young people, they combine contemplative practice, regenerative work on the land and social activism. Russell said he’s trying to re-enact an ancient story, shifting the mindset from ‘me-ness’ to benefiting the whole.
After a fascinating interview with folks at the Center for Transformative Practice in White River Junction, the film takes you to Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg NY, a community trying to combat “food apartheid” by training groups of city dwellers in farming, food production and back to earth skills, then delivering to “food deserts”, populations of people who can’t afford nutritious food.
The film takes you on tour with the duo, Climbing Poetree, a performance art group of two women who provoke their audiences to simply wake up, saying humanity is in a battle of stories and we need to decide which will win. They bring to life the idea of creativity as an antidote for violence and destruction and have clocked thousands of miles with their message, touring on a bus that runs on recycled veggie oil.
Fable Farm is run by two brothers in Barnard Vermont. A working farm, winery and events venue, their Thursday community day has turned into a major event hosting up to 500 people at a time. They say their survival as a farm is based on the community that has built up over the last ten years. Their philosophy, they add, is to focus on the self; from there one can have greater effect on the larger community.
The film ended with the haunting quote from poet Drew Dellinger:
“my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
...surely you did something”
After the film we shifted into a big circle, sharing both dreams and hard realities of building communities of response. Ideas included modeling homesteading through tours/skillshares, running Repair Cafes (ongoing in Charlotte), inner transition book groups, just to name a few. No doubt, many other ideas were generated in the lively breakout conversations before we all parted ways.
Wherever it takes you and your community, Chris and his film are well worth hosting in your town, library or home. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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