IDFA, Red Forest Hotel

Interestingly, the two movies I liked the least this year were the two environmental ones. Odd; I usually love exposes, but somehow both of these left me a bit cold. As The Redhead said, “The director was very lucky that what should have been a simple investigative report turned into a thriller.”

Red Forest Hotel began with its Finnish director investigating another mega-national, Stora Enso, and its planting of eucalyptus trees in massive plantations in southern China. Apparently eucalyptus are extremely bad for other species as they such up enormous amounts of water. Once again, the small farmers were being edged out and thrust into poverty. Stora Enso had sent bullies to beat up local villagers and, of course, denied any association.

The movie became a thriller when the director was stopped in his tracks at his hotel by government officials who used every technique in the books to stall his investigation. “We just have to call for someone to accompany you, it won’t take long.” “We’re very happy to help you out, and we promise we’ll give you unbiased, objective information.” Yeah, right. The lawyer and his assistant who were helping in the investigation were both kidnapped and removed so he no longer had Chinese accomplices. He had to leave China for a year and when he returned, things went right back to where they left off.

The final verdict? Multi-nationals are terrible. China is still a police state. Hats off to the very brave director who put himself in harm’s way numerous times in order to get the story to us. Yet once again, I found the story-telling rather pedestrian. Perhaps that’s the only way an expose can work — there’s not much room for creative depiction in such a storyline. But I think of Michael Moore, who some may say goes too far the other way, but would never be accused of a cold approach. Once again, I’m glad I saw it, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

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