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FTN reviews Red Forest Hotel

September 11th, 2012 by Big Phil Comments

A Finnish news cameraman who has worked for 15 years in Beijing starts to document China’s massive tree-planting campaigns. Faced with the threat of climate change, the economic giant China is strongly investing in recycling, renewable energy and other environmental reforms. The filmmaker wants to explore whether authoritarian China, with its effective new environmental policies, could set a green example for the world. But the project takes a surprise turn when the filmmaker gets stopped by local government officials on his way to film tree plantations in Guangxi province, southern China.

This is a wonderful documentary that was filmed almost entirely in China. Filmmaker Mika Koskinen wanted to explore the relationship between a Finnish paper company and the massive conservation programme that is on-going in China.

What starts out as being a nationwide programme for all citizens to plant trees soon has far reaching repercussions. With land owners facing intimidation from public officials backed by more sinister individuals, we see the aftermath of the “tree planting programme” and what damage it is causing.

Mika sets out to interview both government officials and the Directors of the company in question, but he is soon stone-walled into delaying tactics. These delays start off simple but it soon appears that forces are kidnapping his contacts or detaining them.

Mika himself then virtually becomes a prisoner as he is under constant watch by party officials and those who directly benefit from the programme. What ends ups on screen is a film that has a filmmaker without interviews by officials. Only the fearful famers and villagers want to appear to Mika their story. It is their story which is the saddest and most disturbing.

Vast areas of farmland that were once home to wildlife and various species’ of flower, crop and trees have been cleared for the planting of eucalyptus trees. These trees are planted as they are fast growing and provide the much need paper and wood that is consumed by China. As a result of these trees being planted in gargantuan proportions, they have drained water supplies to dangerous levels. There leaves when they fall turn the water toxic and soil toxic so that it no other plant or creature can survive.

Mika, with the help of his lawyer, tries his best to get answers from officials from both the party and also the company who has invested in the paper mills. Sadly though, Mia is forced to live out his visa in the Red Forest Hotel, which at first is pleasant enough but turn rapidly into a luxury prison of sorts as he is left to just sit and wait.

This is a very powerful documentary which has some wonderful cinematography of the landscapes of China. It is a chilling documentary in that it features the lengths individuals will go to protect their vested interests.

I would like to point out that as China is under communist control, their ideals and values may appear strange to western viewers and as such, this documentary may seem one-sided without a statement or response to the questions it asks.

4 out of 5 nerds

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I arrived on Earth in 1977 and have virtually devoted my entire existence to cult films, television programmes and cartoons. I am a very big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek; I may struggle with foreign languages but I can order live Gagh in Klingon! I’m the Nerd that knows the trivia but I’m hopeless at sport!