Last night, instead of ending at minute 87 as it sometimes does, the film poured into the street.
Sam from Rainforest Action Network got up after the film and asked the audience whether they were angry. The audience responded that yes, they were angry. She held up a lump of coal. "Anyone know what this is?" Sam then said something to the effect of (a paraphrase - I wish I could get her exact words):
"Sometimes we get angry about things that happen far away, and we think we can't do anything about them. Like right now, for example, in Virginia, they're doing something called 'mountaintop removal.' Can anyone imagine what that might be?"
After briefly describing what mountaintop removal coal mining means for people and the environment, Sam continued: "But that doesn't happen because some guy in Virginia got the idea to blow up a mountain and mine for coal. It happens because there's a bank in New York City that finances him. That's why it happens."
She then described the coordinates of one such bank - two blocks away. JP Morgan Chase underwrites Massey Energy, which is behind much of the mountaintop removal coal mining done in this country. She invited the audience to pick up lumps of coal at the exit and proceed with us down the street to one Chase branch, and show Chase how they feel about that and, more importantly, remind the rest of the world what Chase is doing.
At the door, some folks passed out coal to audience members, while a marching band continued the end theme music of the film (the band was organized by Neel Murgai, the theme's composer). The band then led the audience to the bank. It was as if the film hadn't ended, and was pouring into the street.
The evening was hosted by Creative Capital. They support creative endeavors (they've supported us for the last ten years, from the year they, and we, began) and so the audience was full of artists. Therefore, at the bank, art was made - first on the sidewalks, then on the bank itself.
"I thought this was going to be a black tie affair, not a black bloc affair," said art critic Judith vander Plaat, 38. "I am distinctly pleased."
Tonight's affair might not have changed anything in itself, but a few more people now know what their dollars are doing, and what our laws are allowing to happen. It's got to change, and we've got to do whatever we can do to change it.