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Sick-Amour cover image

Sick-Amour 2010

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Green Planet Films, 21 Columbus Ave. Suite 205, San Francisco, CA 94111; 415-377-5471
Produced by Joel Tauber
Directed by Joel Tauber
DVD, color, 33 min.

College - General Adult
Environmentalism, Urban Studies, Ecology

Date Entered: 11/30/2011

Reviewed by Andrew Jenks, California State University, Long Beach

This short documentary is an unusual love story – the tale of a tree hugger (literally) who falls in love with a scraggly and oft-hit tree in the parking lot of the Pasadena Rose Bowl. In the film the producer and director, Joel Tauber, chronicles his quixotic quest to nurture and protect the sick and dying tree, entombed in asphalt and starved for water and air. After building a barrier to protect the tree from buses and cars, he managed to convince city and Rose Bowl officials to remove concrete from around the tree and surround it with mulch. The documentary ends with Tauber nurturing 300 seedlings from the tree and convincing others to plant them. Having “consummated” his love of the tree, Tauber then married someone from his own species, holding the ceremony under his beloved Sycamore.

Tauber uses his tale to contemplate tensions between urban American civilization and the natural world. The French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes, who placed human reason above the material world, is emblematic of the disdainful and manipulative attitude toward the physical environment. Another academic remarks on the narrow view that excludes the places where people live and work—as opposed to wilderness areas designated as national parks—as worthy of environmental protection. Arborists and tree pathologists provide interesting details about urban environmental ecologies and the various diseases that afflict urban trees. Viewers will also learn about the vital role of trees in absorbing ozone, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter—an especially critical role in smog-plagued Southern California.

At times overwrought and repetitive, Tauger’s dialogue, filled with professions of love for the tree, occasionally distracts the viewer’s attention from the bigger issues contemplated in the film. But overall the film succeeds in raising critical issues about urban environmentalism. And it provides a small but inspiring story of successful environmental activism.