By Denis Langlois, Owen Sound Sun Times
Filmmaker Laura Israel says in the process of shooting a documentary about industrial wind farms in a small town in northern New York State she was surprised to discover just how deep of a rift the turbine debate can create between once-friendly neighbours.
“People who were friends for 30 years stopped talking to each other. And it’s still that way today,” the producer/director of Windfall said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The award-winning feature-length documentary examines how a proposal to erect 40 industrial wind turbines in the small town of Meredith, N.Y., divides the community.
“I’ve shown the film all over the U.S., now in Ireland, Amsterdam and the island of Lanai in Hawaii and every single screening people say if you changed the names and the faces, that would be our town. That would be what happened in our town. They’re the same characters and the same dynamic.
“In Meredith, it had a lot to do with — wind companies do confidentiality agreements when people sign leases — and in Meredith, I know it fostered this air of secrecy and paranoia. And I’m not sure if it’s that way in every town, but I know that there’s a similar divisiveness in every community I’ve come into contact with.”
Windfall will be shown Saturday at 3 p.m. at Meaford Hall. Tickets, which are still available, are $10. Israel will answer questions from the audience via Skype after the film.
“Attracted at first to the financial incentives that would seemingly boost their dying economy, a group of townspeople grow increasingly alarmed as they discover the impacts that the 400- foot high windmills slated for Meredith could bring to their community,” the film’s website says.
Communities across Grey- Bruce are facing a debate similar to the one experienced by the residents of Meredith. Wind energy companies have announced plans to build turbines in several Grey-Bruce municipalities, including near Silcote Corners in rural Meaford. Anti-wind groups have been organized and public meetings have been held to discuss the potential dangers of the massive windmills.
Israel, a New York-based filmmaker who owns a cottage in Meredith, said she hopes her film will help “motivate people” to gather more information about wind turbines so they can draw their own conclusions.
“I think a lot of people and a lot of towns go into this just with this ‘Green is Good’ (mentality) and then they say to the companies ‘Do whatever you want. We have to do this right away so it’s fast-tracked.’ So there’s very little restriction and they’re not looked at critically. So I think if it’s on an industrial scale, people need to look at it more critically and ask a lot more questions,” she said.
“The main people that I really, really want to see the film are the people who haven’t really looked at this critically and really are interested in just knowing a little more about it and haven’t made up their mind at all.”
Windfall has won awards and accolades at film festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Woodstock.
Tickets to the screening of Windfall in Meaford are available at http://meafordhall.ca or by calling 519-538-0463 or 1- 877-538-0463.