More about the film.
A Will for the Woods, the feature documentary that Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale and I co-directed, explores the green burial movement by focusing on some of its key figures, including Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council; Kimberley and Dr. Billy Campbell, founders of the first conservation burial ground in the U.S.; and Dyanne Matzkevich, who is saving a tract of forest within her conventional cemetery by turning it into a green burial ground.
The film’s main focus, however, is North Carolina couple Clark Wang and Jane Ezzard. Faced with the possibility of Clark’s imminent death, they find comfort in the environmental and spiritual significance they see in green burial.
My co-director Amy first conceived of the film while stuck in traffic over the vast Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. She had learned of green burial two years earlier from her sister, Sophie, who was researching the topic with Professor Roger Short of the University of Melbourne.
In 2009, Sophie came to visit Amy in New York and they took a road trip. Idling on the busy city overpass, Amy surveyed the crowded cemetery’s tombstones, mausoleums, roads and scattered trees. The place seemed to her to offer little chance for life, regeneration, or a meaningful legacy. Amy turned to her sister: “Tell me more about this green burial?”
That conversation sparked a four-year film-making collaboration. What drew each of us to the topic was not a fascination with death but an instinctual connection to this life-affirming, new/old idea that our bodies should remain within the cycle of life and death, rather than being cut off from it.
During months of filming with green burial experts, Amy and Jeremy heard from Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council about a Durham man who was planning his own funeral and inspiring his community to think about green burial — and who would love to speak with them. Within minutes of meeting Clark, they were immersed in his daily life of doctor’s visits, radiation treatments, and discussing green burial with anyone who was interested. They quickly established a close connection with Clark and Jane, and were moved and honored when they were invited to continue following them, and if Clark didn’t overcome his cancer, to film his funeral and burial.
Clark wanted the world to witness the power and beauty he saw in green burial.
While Amy and Jeremy continued shooting, Tony and I began the editing process, and the four of us started forming the film’s story. Working with what would eventually be over 300 hours of footage, we were beginning an intensive, collaborative, and moving two-plus years of editing. Over that time, we became more and more sure that the most compelling film we could make—one just as much about finding meaning in death as it is about an environmental movement—would have Clark and Jane as its main focus.
As their story exemplifies, green burial offers solace in the face of death that conventional burial and cremation arguably cannot, rooted as it is in the integration of death with life, the acceptance of natural processes, and the preservation of wilderness. We hope that A Will for the Woods, like green burial, can provide such inspiration and comfort to many people.
Adapted from the film’s website, awillforthewoods.com
Here’s the latest episode of The Green Divas Radio Show for more on green and healthy living…
Photo via Shutterstock
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Brian Wilson (Co-Director/Editor) works as an editor in New York, and graduated from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature and History. After his mother died in 2008, he became interested in developing deeper insight into death, which he was grateful to find through his work on A Will for the Woods. He has been thrilled to have many viewers of the film share that it provided something similar for them. Check out his Google+ Page and A Will For the Woods’ Google+ Page for more information!