Ad’k Film Society screens ‘Denial’ Friday

LAKE PLACID — Filmmakers Aaron Woolf, Derek Hallquist and Anoosh Tertzakian initially set out to make a documentary about energy in the United States. What it turned into was a film not only about America’s alleged denial of manmade climate change but also a film about Derek’s father, David, coming to terms with his own gender identity.

The Adirondack Film Society will screen the documentary, “Denial,” Lake Placid’s Palace Theatre at 7 p.m. Friday.

“Denial” follows David Hallquist, the CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, as he fights for greener and decentralized energy. Woolf wanted people to recognize that global warming is a reality and that America’s current means of producing and distributing energy is a catalyst for climate change.

Partway through the filming, David admitted to his family that he is transgender.

“The burden of keeping this inside for so long was becoming life threatening,” Woolf said. “He became suicidal trying to reconcile his inside and his outside.”

“Denial” documents Christine Hallquist, left, CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, fighting for a greener and decentralized energy grid while also coming to terms with her own gender identity. Her son, David, right, directed the film. (Photo provided by Mosaic Films)

Woolf, an Elizabethtown resident who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2014, called David a champion of rethinking energy and trying to get people out of their denial about climate change issues.

“The consequences for the earth were life or death,” Woolf said. “The fact that was happening at the same time as he was grappling with his own denial was really a pretty big irony.”

David now goes by Christine and is the first CEO in America to transition while in office.

Christine isn’t afraid to speak the truth, according to Woolf.

“Unlike a lot of our leaders today, especially in politics,” Woolf said, “she doesn’t let being in a particular camp determine what she says. She’s offended liberals as much as she has conservatives by using science as her guide.”

When politicians in Vermont say 50 percent of the grid’s electricity needs to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, Christine will explain that the physics of the grid as it’s configured now just won’t allow that.

“Science is not so popular in Washington these days,” Woolf said, “but science doesn’t have politics. Science isn’t fake news.”

Woolf garnered success with his 2008 Peabody Award-winning film “King Corn,” a documentary that looked into what had gone wrong with the American food system.

Woolf said “Denial” was pretty much the premise of “King Corn,” only this time about energy instead of food. Where energy used to rely on local resources, firewood, it had become something distant to the consumer, such as people all across the country depending on coal from Ohio or residents in New England relying on the Hydro-Quebec energy company in Montreal.

“The electric grid, while not seeming very sexy or enticing,” Woolf said, “is really at the core of how we build a new economy.”

Woolf noted how countries such as China and Saudi Arabia are investing large sums of money into green infrastructure while U.S. President Donald Trump is keen on coal.

“We have an immense opportunity, like we have so many times in the past,” Woolf said, “of being on the cutting edge of reworking the energy system.”

He originally thought of calling the film “The Farmers Market of Electrons” or “Farm to Socket,” but the name and general premise weren’t enough to create a full-length film.

“While that’s a good idea for an essay or a magazine article,” Woolf said, “the problem with making a feature documentary is you really need a story. You really need some plot and mostly some characters you become invested in.”

After meeting Derek at the Sundance Film Festival, they started collaborating on ideas and Derek suggested that his father would be the perfect protagonist.

“Derek is a self-professed camera geek,” Woolf said.

Since his teenage years, Derek had been following his father around with a camera, and some of that footage appears in the film.

“Even before he knew about his dad [wanting to transition],” Woolf said, “it felt like he was using the camera to make sense of his father.”

While the film still focused on energy, the narrative pivoted to an intimate family story.

“We need things to jump-start difficult conversation, and this film can do that,” Woolf said.

“Denial” was originally going to be shown at Lake Placid Film Forum this past June, and ironically enough, the power went out before the movie could start.

If you go…

What: “Denial” documentary film

Where: The Palace Theatre, 2430 Main St., Lake Placid

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8

How much: $10