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Windfall tells story from local point of view

When Laura Israel first read about wind energy coming to the remote New York State town where she owned a getaway cabin, she decided she’d love to have a wind turbine.

“But I started looking into it a little further, and I was really taken aback by what I found,” says the New York-based filmmaker. ” Because of the complexities of the issues around wind energy, I thought it would make a good topic for a short film. However, when we started filming I realized it was much bigger topic than I anticipated.”

The result is Windfall, being shown at Meaford Hall this weekend. Israel both produced and directed the film, which has gone on to win awards and accolades at film festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Woodstock.

Windfall isn’t really about wind power or the companies who are reaping massive profits from the technology. While wind turbines do figure quite heavily as a backdrop, the film is about the people of Meredith, New York – an Upstate farm community in decline – wrangling with a contentious issue.

It observes the deeply divided residents as they debate the pros and cons of allowing wind turbines on their land. Local proponents champion the promise of green energy and monetary compensation, while detractors question the efficiency of wind-generated energy and the drawbacks of living among 400- foot tall towers with gigantic rotating blades.

In telling the story of Meredith, Israel explores the largely hidden downside of allowing wind energy corporations to stake out land in American communities, installing these towers so close to peoples’ homes that residents complain of headaches and respiratory problems, diminished property values and the general noise of these giants.

“I tried to shoot the film from the town’s point of view,” explains Israel. “People who live among turbines are trying to get the word out about problems they’re having, and I wanted to give voice to the people, rather than the wind companies.” She does this by allowing local townspeople to discuss their own research, experiences and fears, such as the wind turbines’ ‘flicker effect,’ as the machines pass across the sun and cast immense shadows, as well as the dangers of their low frequency hum.

It is because the film is told from the town’s point of view that we don’t see any of the wind companies on hand at the meetings to answer questions. “The wind companies get contracts, then all of a sudden they are really scarce. I wanted to represent that absence in Windfall,” says Israel.

Windfall is being shown at Meaford Hall on Saturday, June 25 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 (including HST) and available at www.meafordhall.caor by calling 519-538-0463 or 1-877-538-0463. Following the movie, Israel will discuss Windfall during a Skype interview conducted by CBC News Anchor Christopher Thomas.