Month: August 2013

Ralph Nader On Democracy, Optimism and His Life as an Outspoken Citizen

Renowned progressive Ralph Nader certainly has no shortage of descriptions that can be attached to him: author, outspoken consumer advocate, lawyer, environmentalist,  public citizen,  the list goes on. But to many – especially those of us who were born from the 1970s on-wards, Nader is probably best known for challenging the dominate two party system in America as a four time presidential candidate, running both as an independent, and under the banner of the Green Party.

His presidential efforts include his controversial run in the 2000 election,  when some progressives and former allies blamed his campaign for siphoning off votes from democrats in critical swing states and causing Al Gore to narrowly lose the presidency to George Bush.

But the true extent of Ralph Nader’s contributions as an individual to American society, go far beyond any debate as to the positive or negative impact of his presidential runs. Many of the institutions and the key regulations that are taken for granted in the United States today  – things that protect consumer rights, democracy, ralph-nader-12and the environment – are virtually the direct result of his  work. This includes such things as the EPA, The Freedom of Information Act, The Clean Air and Water acts, and countless other pieces of crucial federal legislation  which were enacted into law in the 60s and 70s thanks to Nader’s efforts along with the public interest institutions he founded.

He first came to prominence in the 1960s when he took on the large U.S. car manufacturers such as GM over known design and safety flaws that they allowed to be built into their models vehicles. His research and findings led to his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, which in turn helped usher in –  by an unanimous vote in congress –  the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act which gave the government new oversight powers into the safe design of cars and roads.

Now, Ralph Nader is out with a Nader_ToldYouSo_150dpi_1024x1024new book called Told You So, The Big Book of Weekly Columns. It’s a collection of his best weekly column that he has been writing since 1972 and covers subjects ranging from coporate crime, and foreign policy, to the media, and health care. It’s a compelling and fascinating look at the determined work of one of America’s most outspoken and progressive figures. I reached Ralph Nader by phone at a studio in Washington, D.C.

Filmmaker Alan Zweig reflects on life and meaning in ’15 Reasons to Live’

For those who know his work, Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig isn’t exactly renowned for seeing the brighter side of life. Indeed, through his previous films such as Vinyl and I Curmudgeon, he has built a reputation for exploring life’s darker aspects, including his own personal struggles and vulnerabilities.

Toronto Director Alan Zweig

Toronto Director Alan Zweig

It might, then, come as a surprise to some to learn of his most recent film, 15 Reasons To Live, in which he instead turns his eye to what makes life worth living; the various facets of the human experience which make our time on this planet worth holding onto and cherishing.

The film was inspired by a book of essays of the same title Why Not: 15 reasons to live, by Alan’s friend Roy Robertson. As soon as he heard the title, knew he wanted to make a film based on idea.

Based on this inspiration, the film takes the viewer through a sequence of chapters, each one adapted to one of the fifteen themes in Ray Robertson’s collection of essays  Adventure, Art, Intoxication. Rather than being an abstract meditation, in the film each point is illustrated by a portrait of a person and a particular experience they have had, which brings to life the theme in question.

15 rThe portraits are both poignant and revealing, and the end result is a heartening film of meditations on the nature of life and resilience that will leave you thinking long after you’ve left the theatre.

The film premiered at Hot Docs in May, and will be coming out to Canadian theatres this October. I sat down with Alan Zweig during Hot Docs in May for our interview.

To find out more visit www.15reasonstolive.com/