Laura van Halsema's Programmer Pick: Green Bank Pastoral

    • Festival
    • December 3, 2020
    • By Maricke Nieuwdorp & Laura van Halsema

    Throughout the festival, the IDFA programmers present their favorite hidden gems within the program. Today: Laura van Halsema, the senior programmer responsible for the Competition for Mid-Length Documentary, the Competition for Dutch Documentary and the Kids & Docs Competition this year. She recommends Green Bank Pastoral by Federico Urdaneta.

    Sometime in the 1950s, the American village of Green Bank on the outskirts of West Virginia, was labelled a National Radio Quiet Zone. Satellite dishes were placed as well as an observatory, intended for scientific research and military intelligence activities. It is a place that, due to the strict regulation of radio communication, also attracts more and more people who are hypersensitive to radiation.

    There are now roughly two groups living in Green Bank. These are original residents, mostly blue collar workers who sometimes even helped with the construction of the satellite dishes and migrant, hippie-like city dwellers who became unwell from radiation and therefore sought refuge here. Based on this premise, one can make a film in which the contradictions and a clash of cultures are the core of the story. Those films were made.

    The interesting thing about this film is precisely that the director does not let the present and dormant conflict predominate. Although there is indeed some conflict around, Federico Urdaneta completely stays away from predictability. Rather, he observes and shows the complexity of human psychology, on both sides. That way it is always exciting. It is never certain what will follow and where exactly the perspective lies. Those sensitive to radiation in particular have been in front of cameras often and are very aware of how they appear. Usually they are portrayed as a bunch of weirdos and the validity of their claims is mainly examined. Urdaneta enters without judgment and opts for an almost detached, studying approach.

    In a sense, his film is a metaphor of modern society, in which interesting parallels can be discerned at various levels in how people live next to and with each other. Finally, the Colombian filmmaker makes full visual use of this special place, where life mainly takes place outside. His sweeping shots of Green Bank, recordings of forests and paths, and the almost-surreal images of those large white satellite dishes form the backdrop of a detailed and subtle observation of the inhabitants.

    Want to see Green Bank Pastoral for yourself? Click here for more info and tickets.

    Green Bank Pastoral

    • Federico Urdaneta
    • 2020
    • 54 min

      In sleepy Green Bank there’s a huge radio telescope, which means Wi-Fi is officially prohibited. The offline village attracts a colorful procession of electro-hypersensitive people who hope to find the Wi-Fi-free paradise they have been searching for.

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