As Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley faces serious questions regarding his own wind-related plans, Laura Israel‘s Windfall presents a troublingglimpse into one community’s calamitous transition to wind power. In the sleepy town of Meredith, N.Y, where times are tough and bucolic views are placed at a premium, Israel documents the contentious invasion of 400-foot-tall wind turbines, shown here to be noisy, hulking menaces prone to ice flinging and shadow flickering. As implementation takes hold, dreams of greenness are quickly punctured and disgruntled townsfolk begin to gather and gripe. The populace soon finds itself divided: business-minded land owners vs. slighted citizens, conflicted environmentalists pitted against stubborn town council members. “We are not against alternative energy,” proclaims one angry protester. “We’re against these monstrosities!”
A fierce passion underlines Windfall, informed by the fact that Israel herself owns a cabin in Meredith. This goes a long way toward making the struggle presented feel so personal (i.e., bogged down in specificity), but it also explains why the film feels alienatating to those outside the city limits. In the absence of screen time or representation, the faceless monolith that is Big Wind makes for an easy villain against civic-minded cruisaders, but the debate lacks clarity or perspective.
Does living near a wind turbine lead to dizzy spells and other illnesses? Do turbines catch fire nearly as often as shown here? Who exactly are these hucksters that came to town and swindled residents into investing in monorail-like technology? (Some of the ill-advised contracts presented are so head-slappingly unfair it’s difficult to imagine anyone read them.) In the end, Windfall presents a compelling but incomplete argument, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks and seek out its own facts.
Windfall plays at the AFI Silver Theatre on Saturday March 19 at 5 p.m., $7-$11.