Friday, February 22, 2008

Red Carpet Baggers

The environmental documentary The Unforeseen, directed by Laura Dunn, examines the adverse effects housing developments have had on Austin's Barton Springs and has won much critical acclaim and several prestigious awards since its January release. However, some unforeseen opposition has recently arisen as some Austin residents have taken to protesting its release claiming the film will bring unwanted publicity and population growth to the city. Much of their resentment has targeted the documentary's executive producer, actor Robert Redford.

"We Austinites are sick and tired of carpet baggers from other parts of the country infesting our town and we are finally putting our foot down. Because of them, traffic is getting worse and worse, corporate businesses are running our beloved locally owned-establishments out, and the once pristine hiking trails are always packed with people and covered in litter. Indeed, Austin is a special place, but because of the massive influx of outsiders, it's becoming indistinguishable from any other large city," said Philip Ackerman, a real estate agent who relocated to Austin from Chicago in 2002.

"Now Mr. Hollywood himself Robert Redford parades in to make a movie about how housing developments pollute Barton Springs, which when it hits theaters, will bring in more people to live in those houses and pollute the Springs. I hold Robert Redford responsible for destroying this city."

Ackerman then added, "And for the record, I thought The Horse Whisperer was corny. I just kept thinking to myself, 'Hey Great Gatsby, who do you think you're fooling dressing up like a cowboy?' That movie was terrible."

Dunn responded to criticism such Ackerman's in the following press statement, "I am personally shocked and distraught over the negative reaction some people have had to the film, which we hoped would enlighten viewers about the pollution of Barton springs. It was never our intention for The Unforeseen (In theaters now! Available at local retailers on DVD April 15th! Packed with exciting bonus features including deleted scenes!) to cause problems for Austin or it's citizens. We only wanted to bring light to the struggle facing Barton Springs."

Not all local residents were satisfied by the director's explanation. "Hey, instead of a movie about a Texan trying to build homes in a region of Texas, why not make a movie about some pretentious Hollywood snob coming to the capitol of our great state to make a crappy movie?" asked Greg Yarborough, a corporate attorney originally from New York City, who has been living in Austin for nine years. "They can entitle it, What Robert Redford Did By Making This Crappy Movie. Or better yet, why doesn't Robert Redford just stay home and make another piece of garbage like The Horse Whisperer? Hey Redford, if you're going to insist on making a movie with no plot and terrible acting, at least have the common decency to cut it down to an hour and a half. You know, the ironic thing is, the more people who come here to be a part of 'Austin', the less 'Austin' this place becomes...damn, that was profound."

The protests are the latest event in the documentary's unusual production history. According to, The Unforeseen was originally conceived as a horror/thriller to be directed by Wes Craven and star Nicole Kidman as a woman who's ability to see the future is not always accurate. Through the script development process, however, the studio decided it was better suited to be a somber documentary about land development and environmental destruction. Dunn was hired on the strength of her documentaries Green and Become the Sky. She began researching Gary Bradley's development company and the resulting destruction of Austin's wildlife and completed the film in three years.

Not everyone is impressed with the result. "I know Laura Dunn and Robert Redford had good intentions, but I don't know if they considered the impacts the development of their film would have on Austin's cultural environment. Sure a big fancy expensive movie seems nice but at what cost to the creative habitat that was here before? Austin used to be a laid back, lazy river town that was so richly and proudly independent and local," said Sandra Turner, a marketing executive who moved to Austin from Miami in 2005.

"I worry people will see the glamor associated with Robert Redford as he goes on TV talk shows to promote the film and want to move out here. With more people comes more crowding, more commercialization, less peace. If Robert Redford really wanted to help Austin and the springs, he wouldn't have made this film. I liked him in The Horse Whisperer though, I thought it was a sweet story. But what was up with The Last Castle? It was just a shameless Shawshank Redemption rip-off. At least it looked that way from the preview; I didn't actually see it."

Gracie Carlyle, a spokesperson for Robert Redford sought to quell the public outcry. "Mr. Redford is obviously bewildered by people speaking out against the documentary and his involvement with the project. While he did spend much of his childhood in Austin and did learn to swim in Barton Springs, Mr. Redford has never claimed to be a native son, just a person who loves the Springs and loves Austin and wants to help. He donated his executive producer salary to the Barton Springs Preservation foundation and spent a lot time making sure the film was done well," She said at a press conference Tuesday.

"He understands locals are upset with him and out of respect for them and the community, he encourages them to come and speak with him about their concerns like they would any other neighbor. Austinites are welcome to stop by and visit him no matter where he is, be it his estate in Westlake Hills, his downtown penthouse on West Fifth Street, the luxury suite he maintains at the Driskell Hotel, his whimsical bungalow in Tarry Town, or his lakehouse on Lake Travis, just drop by and say hello. They should be aware that he usually just autumns in Austin as he finds July and August to be too sweaty so he summers in the South of France. Mr. Redford loves discussing environmental activism and would enjoy meeting anyone who is also interested in nature conservation efforts."


Anonymous said...

Well said.

McCrae City Rocker said...

WTF? Go back to writing school, Goobalicious...

I have to be missing something... All of the interviewed are the crap ass influx that your article wants to keep out of our fair city....? And you, you leave too, move back to Phoenix.