Cape Spin! An American Power Struggle

Posted by Michael Parsons on June 22, 2012 in / No Comments


(This review was originally published on June 22, 2012 at Reel Film News)

Though maybe not the most well-executed documentary I’ve ever seen, “Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle” could be the most unbiased political account in recent memory. Directors Robbie Gemmel and John Kirby compile footage from a decade-old controversy surrounding Jim Gordon’s Cape Wind project, his plan for a massive system of wind turbines set five miles off the coast of Cape Cod in the Nantucket Sound as a renewable energy source – which would be the largest of its kind in the U.S. to date – and covering an area roughly the size of Manhattan. The plan was finally approved by the Federal Government in April of 2010, but is still being met with much opposition from various groups.

Most powerful and influential of these groups is The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a campaign led by Audra Parker, who is concerned that the project will simply produce more revenue to line the pockets of an energy conglomerate masquerading as an environmentally conscious, proactive entity. As a clean energy endeavor, this might seem like a no-brainer, but the company was, at the time, fresh off an approved plan for a massive diesel plant upstate, across from a school, no less. Are they just dipping into the Green Energy pool? Does it matter?

blog_capespinOn the other side of the coin, Parker’s group has been pegged by proponents of Cape Wind as representative of the small elitist population, protecting their real estate interests, with neither the greater good nor the majority of the area’s population in mind. Are they disconnected from the concept and global impact of renewable energy, regardless of whether the energy company is making a buck? Or is it really the local wildlife they’re concerned about? They claim to approve of the idea, as long is it’s not visible from their shores. But they could also be protecting the local environment.

Full of statistics and valid arguments from both sides, this film observes a political ping pong match that dredges up some fascinating stuff, so to speak. It is also a bit exhausting. To date, this ‘power struggle’ has cost both groups a collective $70 million; you have to wonder how much time it would take to recoup that in energy savings.

“Cape Spin” initially seems like it will develop into the typical Democrat vs. Republican stalemate on the same old environmental issues – global warming, pollution and such, eventually falling in their respective directions – but becomes dramatically more complex, finding its footing in small-scale political warfare (including a weigh-in from the Kennedys, for good measure). Conversely, the film thrives when it opens up this community feud to a potential global impact, and allows its subject to make a statement of its own. Typical of these types of documentaries, however, it is pretty choppy and inserts about twenty minutes of extraneous footage; its message(s) would be more concise at 60 minutes. With the exception of including some “Daily Show” coverage from a few years ago, the film fumbles its attempt at being humorous; for a documentary about energy, it runs out of creative steam pretty quickly. But “Cape Spin” is strong where it counts. The filmmakers do an unusually good job of avoiding their own agendas and ultimately deliver two solid viewpoints to debate with your peers, whether you live in Cape Cod or Washington, DC.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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