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Toronto 2010: “Windfall,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Windfall,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

There’s little doubt Ondi Timoner’s “Cool It” will grab most of the headlines at Toronto as the documentary to question the validity of global warming, but that might work in the favor of “Windfall,” a film that’s equally skeptical, yet wouldn’t benefit from high expectations.

Part of the charm of the debut doc from Laura Israel, an editor for the likes of Ed Lachman and Robert Frank in recent years, is the fact that it sneaks up on you, nearly as unassuming in its start as the farming town of Meredith, NY where the closest thing to conflict is the theft of a sign shaped like a cow by some local teens.

Save for Israel and cinematography Brian Jackson’s vivid depiction of Meredith’s landscape and the twang of electric guitars that serve as its score, the film’s opening promises sped-up shots of nature and talking heads optimistically musing about the potential of wind energy in their community. Yet it isn’t before long that Israel reveals that those wind turbines that sprouted up so inauspiciously throughout Meredith are churning far more debate in the town than actual wind.

Pitchforks aren’t drawn, but they might as well be as this presumably liberal enclave descends into heated disagreement over the towering 400-ft. windmills that are invading Meredith’s acreage, a byproduct of the farms’ desperation for cash and the opportunism of alternative energy companies to sign them up to agreements they couldn’t possibly understand the implications of since it’s still a developing technology. As a result, the residents of Meredith who didn’t sign up to have the windmills on their land are treated to the same constant grinding noise and vertigo-inducing shadows as those that did.

Some may argue the film is a bit one-sided since Israel never moves outside of Delaware County to find the opinion of experts who could play devil’s advocate, at least on camera, and putting in their place industrial videos that suggest the windmills are harmless. In fact, the only time Israel leaves Meredith is to interview folks in nearby Bovina and Andes who successfully fended off the advances of energy companies. (Not surprisingly, those communities also happen to be financially more secure.)

However, Israel’s limited scope is perhaps her ultimate show of confidence in her skills as a filmmaker. Considering that there are only so many ways one can shoot the swaying grass of Meredith or contentious town meetings, Israel’s Final Cut Pro abilities shine best as she zips and zags through maps, pictures, quilts and other ephemera that gives a real flavor for the town culturally and passes along information about the windmills in a way that seems as informal as the casual chitchat between neighbors.

Surely, this approach was inspired by the residents of Meredith, a well-educated bunch that has activism forced upon them rather than seek it out, who offer Israel a wide array of intriguing storylines. There’s Ron Bailey, a former (and final) director of photography at Life magazine, who is inspired to run for a town council seat after his frustration over the windmills lead he and his wife to think about abandoning their home of nearly 40 years. Likewise, one of “Windfall”‘s most pleasurable moments arrives when town supervisor Keitha Capouya mentions as an aside that she used to work for an encyclopedia company, which allows her to separate fact from fiction fairly quickly where the energy companies are concerned.

Of course, blind faith is what got Meredith in their predicament, so it’s equally foolish not to question what Israel is presenting, but her case is so well-built from the socioeconomic underpinnings that led farms to pursue alternative profit streams to the devastating impact on families and neighbors something as simple as a ill-placed windmill can have on a community that it’s hard to drive past those hills lined with turbines again without wondering about who is being affected by it.

“Windfall” does not currently have U.S. distribution.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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