Thursday, November 09, 2006

Trees Are Dying

Dr. Octagon teams up with an unlikely partner to produce this PSA/Music video aimed at raising awareness about our dilapidating natural habitat...

directed by George Greville

The sheer simplicity of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is its greatest strength. This glorified power point presentation swept the nation purely based on its ideas and central theme of global warming. Thus is the power of issue-based filmmaking – if the issue is strong enough, sometimes the film itself doesn’t need to do much more.

Yet despite the popularity of the documentary, the bland nature of its telling means that many will never tune in long enough to find out the horrible truths of environmental destruction. Among this group is a large portion of the short-attention spanned youth of America, or what we used to call the “MTV” generation. The odds of most 13-18 year olds going to the theatres to check out the latest Al Gore documentary are extremely low (not to say it doesn’t happen), but the odds of those same kids tuning into MTV or YouTube once a week or day, are far higher.

“Trees” is a Public Service Announcement music video made by Dr. Octagon (a.k.a Kool Keith) in association with the very same MTV, in hopes of directly speaking to the future leaders of our society. Thus we get walking trees, a Steve Urkel look alike (no that isn’t Kool Keith) and a cartoon world being smashed by gas-gulping cars and corporate honchos. It’s a very smart video made for smart kids, but it’s just light hearted and entertaining enough to appeal to even the most apathetic youngster just looking for cool visual indulgence.

The brilliance of Octagon’s song is in the plainness of the chorus, “trees are dying,” which sums things up rather nicely and clearly. But what the video accomplishes is giving layers of meaning to that short phrase, as well as illuminating some of the reasons why so many trees are in fact dying. The dark horizon of the sky is surprisingly disturbing, heightened by the zombie-like movement of the dead trees (which also bring to mind The Lord of the Rings trees which fight to save their own civilization). There is the clever use of smoke rising from factories to form the lead phrase and a business woman (who has oil in her eyes) forcing actual trees into copy machines in order to show the ways in which we are destroying the environment daily. The climax is the aformentioned scene in which the planet rolls down a congested and smoggy street filled with huge bull-like cars until finally it is smashed under the heel of industrialization.

But nothing is more affecting than the simple concept of using children as the lead characters in this video. It’s not just that it makes the entire project more appealing and more understandable to kids, but it’s also a smack-in-the-face reminder of the consequences of ignoring a physically sick world. Octagon didn’t make this song for little children; he speaks directly to the “elegance” on our wrists that we fight to protect at the cost of the “elephants” in the jungle. But by using children to bring his themes out, the video intensifies and strengthens the message - it may be possible to live out our lives completely ignorant of these issues, perhaps even live a happy life, but that doesn’t mean somebody, somewhere in the near future, won’t suffer because of it.

Octagon and MTV deserve a hand for their creative work, but more than that, they deserve a number of hands to help them fight global warming and save our environment. This video probably would have never been made if Al Gore hadn't had the success he did, but "Trees" takes his "inconvenient truth" and moves it one step nearer to the ears of those who need to hear it the most.


Anonymous said...

I thought this song was written in the 80s. It's so dated in it's understanding. Trees are dying? wtf does that have to do with anything. It's like a 3yo's perspective.

Trees aren't dying.

That's just stupid to say that. Then to use it as a hook, it just sounds stupid. Really surprised this is actually a real song and not 10 years old.

The problem isn't trees dying. Never has been. Never will be.


Anonymous said...

Trees are really dying you stupid idiot

Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie