‘Bidder 70’ the film
"One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty."
Dr. Martin Luther King
By the time "Bidder 70" was screened locally this past weekend as part of the Park City Film Series at the Jim Santy Auditorium, those who have followed the story of Tim DeChristopher from his initial disruption of the oil and gas lease auction of December 2009 through his trial and federal incarceration were aware that, having completely served his sentence, including probation, he was now a free man.
He and the rest of us, of course, remain in the prison of our own conscience.
Filmmakers Beth and George Gage tell this tale of personal commitment from many angles, having gotten onboard early in the process and by interviewing not only those inside the DeChristopher vortex but also movers and shakers from the climate-activist community at large.
With many of these interviews transpiring in the opening segment of the film, to paraphrase Cameron Crowe, they had me at "hello." I was smitten. I was onboard, committed, and ready to rock and roll.
The question I had, and still have for that matter, is whether those in attendance not already of an activist persuasion had experienced any sort of epiphany. Did they undergo changes in thought process and behavior? Is this film going to add to the somewhat burgeoning rolls of true believers in the climate-justice movement or is it just more singing to the choir?
Did parading Tim, his attorney (former BLM Director Patrick Shea), Terry Tempest Williams and Robert Redford out front to say their peace during the early moments of the film move the casual observer as much as it did those of us who have been invested since the very beginning? Here’s what they had to say:
Tim: "On December 19, 2008, I took what I considered to be an ethical, necessary, and direct action to protect our planet, our democracy, and our fellow human beings. My actions stopped what I believed was an illegal and certainly unethical auction. My motivation to act against this auction came from the exploitation of public lands, the lack of a transparent and participatory government, and the imminent danger of climate change."
Patrick Shea, former director of the Bureau of Land Management: "What Tim did was to demonstrate very convincingly that the process that had been part of the agency I administered had gotten out of whack. Congress created the BLM to serve a multiple use, so there’s this inherent tension between having conservation ends and having development ends. The Bush administration had chosen to focus in on only one purpose and that was energy generation.
Terry Tempest Williams: "When I heard what Tim had done, it was just like, YES! All the things we’ve been trying for so long to do, Tim exposed with the gesture of one paddle."
Robert Redford: "Tim saw something terribly wrong and because of his moral commitment to the land, he put forth what amounts to a peaceful protest to try to stop it. They were lands that really contained some of the last great places on earth and they want to go into this natural area and pollute the whole thing for what would be short-term profits for corporations."
Dennis Willis, retired BLM staffer: "The November (2008) lease sale was postponed by BLM so that a whole bunch of additional parcels could be added at the last minute and they were having leases very close to and in very sensitive areas that people were concerned about. There’s always political pressure. I have been in meetings with oil and gas companies that have come in and just flat said, ‘We own the White House and you’ll do it our way!’"
And, like I said, that’s only the opening segment of the film. It flows from there, into the heart as much as the mind. And hopefully, that’s what the non-committed take away from it. As Tim says in the film, "Global warming is the prime moral imperative of this generation."
Tim’s going to be traveling around a bit this summer, then, in the fall, starting Harvard Divinity School. He sees the ministry as an extension of his activism, an "upping" of his game. The question is, will this brilliant and poignant film lead those who have seen it into upping theirs. It’s all about joy and resolve! And love! So, up yours!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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