Archives / 2009 Sundance Film Festival

No Impact Man

Director: Laura Gabbert, Justin Schein

Institute History

  • 2009 Sundance Film Festival

Description

GLOBAL WARMING! The headlines scream it; the thermometer confirms it; but few of us do much to address it. Author Colin Beavan and his family are pictures of liberal complacency—sophisticated, takeout-addicted New Yorkers who refuse to let moral qualms interfere with good old-fashioned American consumerism. Then Colin turns things upside down. For his next book, he announces he's becoming No Impact Man, testing whether making zero environmental impact adversely affects happiness. The hitch is he needs his wife, Michelle—an espresso-guzzling, Prada-worshipping Business Week writer—and their toddler to join the experiment.

A year without electricity, cars, toilet paper, and nonlocal food isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Or is it? As Michelle contends with caffeine and shopping withdrawal, compost worms, and defending her dreams in the face of Colin’s household hegemony, she’s gradually transformed by this life-without-wastefulness. Meanwhile, Colin’s numerous media appearances unleash a viral rash of criticism among bloggers and friends, raising doubts about the project’s integrity. Is it ostentatious or altruistic? Hypocritical or visionary?

Whatever the conclusion, no one can deny we’re going to have to alter our habits radically to achieve sustainability. Through the intimate prism of conflict within a contemporary marriage, No Impact Man suggests that individual change can be the first step in a quantum leap toward a systemic, societal shift. And the temporary discomfort just might be worth it.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

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