Film Series Features 'Fierce Green Fire' and Discussion with Filmmaker

  • Stefanie Le
| April 12, 2012

Documentary Highlights Major Environmental Movements Over 50 Years

From the Grand Canyon to climate change, environmental activists have fought for five decades to save the earth’s most vital natural resources for generations to come. Veteran filmmaker Mark Kitchell chronicles the successes and challenges of this global green movement in his far-reaching new film A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet.  The San Francisco director came to Cambridge recently to screen his documentary at the Belfer Center as part of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)Belfer Center’s Environment & Natural Resources Program’ 2012 Environmental Film Series.

“We wanted something that was powerful and engaging for the audience, and we really found that in telling stories of the movement.  [The documentary] focuses more on the activism and activists—people fighting to save their homes, their lives, their children, and the future,” said Kitchell. “I think it allows the audience—instead of being preached to—to watch people fighting for the environment.  I think that pulls them in more.”

The film, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was featured at the 20th anniversary Environmental Film Festival in Washington DC, is separated into five acts. Each tells an essential story in environmental history, with a compelling group of main characters to personalize the era: David Brower and the Sierra Club’s conservation fight to stop dams in the Grand Canyon; Lois Gibbs and her Love Canal neighborhood’s protest against toxic chemicals; Paul Watson and the Greenpeace campaign to save whales and baby harp seals; Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers’ fight to preserve the Amazon rainforest; and, most recently, Al Gore and his effort to raise awareness of the issues of climate change.

In addition to the single documentary, the footage will eventually also be produced into a five-part series for educational and classroom use, said Kitchell, who consulted with famed Harvard biologist and scientist, E.O. Wilson, on determining the areas of focus.  Through his documentary, Kitchell hopes to inspire a younger generation of environmental activists to tackle the 21st century’s environmental problems, including climate change.

“Our job is to get [the student] generation.  We’re not preaching to the choir—the people who watch something are people who are already converted,” said Kitchell. “We’re interested way beyond the choir.  We want to get this into the hands of students.  There needs to be a generational transfer and recruitment.”

“I first learned of A Fierce Green Fire at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival,” said Cristine Russell, a senior fellow with the Belfer Center Environment & Natural Resources Program who reached out to Kitchell to show the film at Harvard Kennedy School. “The broad topic—fifty years of environmental activism—intrigued me, and it was inspired by a book by a journalist I knew, Philip Shabecoff, formerly a New York Times environment reporter who covered many of the stories firsthand. Shabecoff, who now lives in the Boston area and has authored several books in addition to A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement, attended the screening and participated in the discussion afterwards.

Following the screening, Kitchell told the audience he hopes to complete the film in the next few months. He plans to change the ending, he said, to highlight young environmental activists and to make a stronger appeal for the younger generation to get involved.

“You, [the students], are who we made this for,” summarized Kitchell. For updates on the film’s progress, go to its website,

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Le, Stefanie. “Film Series Features 'Fierce Green Fire' and Discussion with Filmmaker.” News, , April 12, 2012.

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