Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 12, 2013

Lean, green, waste-fighting machines

Eco-warriors take their causes to the silver screen and the fashion runway

by Rebecca Wallace

"Think globally, act locally" becomes a lifestyle when you turn your property into a sanctuary for hundreds of birds, or decide to produce most of your food in your backyard. Or turn into Eco-Man.

OK, so the last guy is fictional. But Michele Raffin, the former high-tech executive who runs Pandemonium Aviaries in Los Altos Hills, is real. So is Forrest Linebarger, who heads the green Palo Alto design and construction firm Inhabiture and has a yard resplendent with fruit trees, goats and chickens.

Environment warriors both real and imagined are the heroes of 15 films being shown on April 18 at the eighth annual Greenlight Earth Day Film Festival awards ceremony at Palo Alto's Cubberley Theatre. This year's contest drew 66 film entries; judges chose 15 finalists. There will also be a new component to the event this year: an "eco fashion show" spotlighting designs by students and by San Francisco fashion designer Tuan Tran, who is fond of turning old telephone and electrical wire into dresses and purses.

"Life cannot be taken too seriously," Tran notes on his website.

The annual event is fueled (and televised) by the Midpeninsula Community Center, with further sponsorship by the Weekly and the cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose. This year, the young filmmaker finalists come from middle and high schools in Palo Alto, Atherton, Los Altos, Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

Films include "Pretty Mama," produced by Nate Becker from Los Altos High School. He follows Raffin and her bird sanctuary, which she started in 1996 by rescuing a hurt dove.

A longtime animal lover, Raffin continued taking in birds in need, and her sanctuary grew. Now the aviary also focuses on promoting the survival of endangered species — as well as providing lifelong care for all its feathered charges. Some of the rarest birds are green-naped pheasant pigeons and bleeding-heart doves.

In "The Lands of Forrest Linebarger," Lauren Salinero of the Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts and Technology and Mountain View High School looks at Linebarger's green lifestyle (and his pink home-grown strawberry guavas).

In the lean, green, waste-fighting machine category, Palo Alto High School's Jack Brook created "Eco-Man," about a boy trying to save the planet by recycling. And Solarman battles Dieselman in "The Adventures of Solarman," by Graham Middle School students Lucas Forgy, Ethan Onyett, Braydon Ross and Sam Sayer.

Other topics covered in the finalist films include: the importance of shopping and eating locally, ways to re-use old T-shirts, and how to catch a litterbug. Finalists are competing for bragging rights and cash prizes.

Students are also playing a major role in the environmentally themed fashion show, serving as both designers and models. The hats and clothing on display will have their roots in donated and recycled textiles.

Meanwhile, Tuan Tran's recycled-wire fashions will serve as a backdrop for the show, with the designer himself as emcee. The evening's co-hosts, former Palo Alto councilman Peter Drekmeier and Media Center host and producer Louise Pencavel, will be decked out in Tran's creations.

A native of Vietnam, Tran finds inspiration in the Japanese arts of ikebana (flower-arranging) and sakiori (recycling old cloth). His wire dresses have such names as "Orangina," "Saturn Rings" and "Wisteria," while his recycled-fabric looks include hemp suits, a woven-satin dress and a white evening gown with ostrich feathers. He also makes intricate wire sculptures that can have low-watt bulbs hung inside.

Tran writes on his website that he feels he's part of a long tradition of utilizing found objects in art, going back to Marcel Duchamp: "My art is an embodiment of the forefathers' idea of recycling, re-purposing and reusing. The idea of viewing and appreciating that which our society has produced, but no longer values."

What: The Greenlight Earth Day Film Festival awards ceremony, with an "Eco Fashion Show"

Where: Cubberley Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

When: April 18 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Cost: Admission is free.

Info: Go to cityofpaloalto.org/greenlight. The event will be shown live via the Media Center; to watch it, or to find information on later showings, go to midpenmedia.org/watch/stream/. For more about fashion designer Tuan Tran, go to zhibit.org/tuantran.

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