FILM REVIEW: “Arid Lands”

From Willamette Week, 10/11/07:

During World War II, the feds decided a huge isolated desert “wasteland” with an “expendable” native population in Eastern Washington would be a perfect spot to cook up plutonium. And almost overnight, 50,000 pasty folk showed up at the now-abandoned Hanford site to produce a laundry list of humanitarian widgets, its chief claim to fame being the radioactive guts of the bomb that wiped out Nagasaki. The area is also home to what’s got to be the country’s most bizarre suburbia, a place where lush golf courses, wineries and McMansions butt up against one of the world’s largest environmental clean-up nightmares. The Tri-Cities’ environmental sins over the years would give Captain Planet an ulcer—the site has pumped millions of gallons of glowing waste into the air, soil and Columbia River. Grant Aaker and Josh Wallaert’s film reveals that the Tri-Cities are a shitty place to live if you’re a salmon, but not so bad if you’re homo sapiens —because, oddly enough, the mega-billions funding the current cleanup effort have made the area one of the fastest-growing and lucrative regions in the Northwest. “Arid Landsis a smart, comprehensive and beautiful film that tells this strange story of an environmental emergency happening right in our backyard. LANCE KRAMER.


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