New film on biomass industry gets sneak preview
Marlboro filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton.

New film on biomass industry gets sneak preview

‘Burned,’ by local filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton, to be screened at Next Stage, 118 Elliot

Local filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton are presenting a pair of sneak preview screenings of their new documentary film, Burned: Are Trees the New Coal?

On Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m., the film will be screened at Next Stage, 15 Kimball Hill, in Putney. 118 Elliot in Brattleboro will host the film on Saturday, Sept. 9., at 7 p.m.

Following both screenings, there will be a question-and-answer session with Dater and Merton, along with the film's associate producer, Chris Hardee, and composer/musician Ty Gibbons.

In a news release, Merton and Dater said they have been working on the film for the past two years. The film is about the burgeoning biomass industry for the production of electricity, its effect on the forests of the U.S. and the world, and how a dedicated group of forest activists, ecologists, carbon scientists, and concerned citizens are fighting to establish the enormous value of forests while trying to protect their communities and alter energy policy.

The subject piqued the interest of Dater and Merton when they first learned about the biomass pellet industry in the southeastern U.S., and the enormous quantity of pelletized trees that are being shipped to the U.K. and European Union for the generation of electricity.

They then started looking at biomass-burning power plants around the country, including in Berlin, N.H., and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Early on, they interviewed local terrestrial ecologist Tom Wessels, professor emeritus at Antioch University New England, about forest ecosystems and the role of forests in mitigating climate change.

Burned has just been accepted at the American Conservation Film Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where it will be screened in October. More about the film can be found at

The last film that Dater and Merton collaborated on was the 2008 award-winning documentary Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, the story of the woman who started the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.

The simple act of planting trees in rural deforested areas was a transformative one for both the environment and for the women of Kenya. Maathai's movement, which ultimately toppled a dictator, earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

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