A Will for the Woods
Short version available here
Clark Wang's passionate wish for a legacy of green burials inspires a profoundly affecting and optimistic portrait of people finding meaning in death.
Directed by Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, Brian Wilson
Produced by Amy Browne
Director of Photography: Jeremy Kaplan
Editors: Tony Hale, Brian Wilson
Original Score: T. Griffin
[Note: Community screenings of A WILL FOR THE WOODS can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"Has the potential to affect not just individual viewers but the American way of death."
Marianna Torgovnick, TED Blog
What if our last act could be a gift to the planet? Capturing the genesis of a revolutionary social and environmental movement, A WILL FOR THE WOODS draws the viewer into a life-affirming and immersive portrait of people embracing their connection to timeless natural cycles.
Musician, folk dancer, and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial, determined that his final resting place will benefit the earth. He has discovered a movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas, forgoing toxic, wasteful funeral practices engineered to preserve the body at the ecosystem's expense. Clark, a spirited and charismatic advocate, sets out to save a tract of forest with the help of green burial pioneers and a compassionate local cemeterian.
While he continues to battle cancer, he and his partner Jane find great comfort in the thought that his death - whenever it may happen - will be a force for regeneration. As the film follows Clark's dream of leaving a loving, permanent legacy, environmentalism takes on a deeply human intimacy.
Note from the filmmakers about the new one-hour version: "This hour-long version was originally edited down from the feature-length version for the film's PBS broadcast as part of the program America ReFramed. The heart of both films is the same - Clark, Jane, and Dyanne's powerful journey. This edit streamlines that story by focusing more on scenes that highlight Clark's connection to green burial. For some, the hour-long film may prove useful for its shorter runtime and/or its emphasis on the scenes that offer the most educational relevance. This version also includes roughly 30 minutes of bonus material."
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014
Copyright Date: 2013
DVD ISBN: 1-94154-504-1
"A Will for the Woods weaves a beautiful story of one person's life and his approaching death as a witness to his spiritual and ecological vision. The film exquisitely captures an often overlooked dimension of contemporary ecology - the burgeoning natural burial movement. A Will for the Woods powerfully interweaves the ecological, spiritual and economic impacts on not only those who are making the transition from this life but on their loved ones as well. This film makes a beautiful statement about a dimension of our existence about which we spend too little time pondering."
Rev. Charles Morris, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Madonna University, Board President, Green Burial Council International
"A must see: A Will for the Woods is a moving and conscious-raising film about green burial. It promotes a way of bodily disposal that is spiritually enriching, environmentally friendly and helps to protect areas of natural beauty. The beginning of a funeral reform in the U.S.A. that gives new meaning to death."
Dr. Eric Venbrux, Director of the Centre for Thanatology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Co-editor, Changing European Death Ways
"This is an impressive, captivating, and powerful film. It is both an intimate portrait of the burgeoning green burial movement and a philosophical reflection on human mortality in a time of environmental crisis."
Gary Laderman, Chair of Department of Religion, Professor of American Religious History and Cultures, Emory University, Author, The Sacred Remains and Rest in Peace
"This unique film documents the death and dying process on multiple levels-physical, psychological, sociological, ecological, and spiritual. And it tells the story from various perspectives--the dying person, the grieving partner, friends and family, and funeral service workers...The film is especially pertinent for those studying to become workers in the funeral service occupations, mortuary science, grief counselors, hospice workers, as well as students of thanatology, environmental studies, restoration ecology, and land use planning."
Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado, Educational Media Reviews online
"An interesting insight into the counter-culture of the new green burial movement in the United States. A Will for the Woods is a unique look at how a group of contemporary Americans deal with death, and how they, in the face of death, form an alternative movement that mirrors other alternative movements that are characteristic for our society. In that way, the film offers an intriguing portrait of American life in the search for the authentic and alternative in the maelstrom of modern life. This film is a rich and multifaceted source for any college level class dealing with ritual theory or death and dying. I will use this in my teaching."
Dr. Liv Nilsson Stutz, Lecturer, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Co-editor, The Handbook for the Archaeology of Death and Burial
"The growing green burial movement is steadily gaining ground, but for many people, discussions about burials are still kind of 'out there', and not something that most of us bother to think about until we have to...A Will For The Woods might be a great introduction to not only eco-friendly burials, but also about beginning to talk frankly about death, and our connection with, and responsibility to, the natural world."
Derek Markham, Treehugger
"The potential for the end of life's circle to promote conservation and renewal is profound, in this ultimately life-affirming portrayal. Highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review
"Although dying, Wang paradoxically blazes with verve, wit, and energy-literally dancing on his own (untreated wood) customized coffin...The film avoids heavy eco-preaching or extensive criticism of the mainstream funeral industry...This thought-provoking documentary on end-of-life issues is highly recommended."
C. Cassady, Video Librarian
"A tender, honest, and compelling portrait of dying on one's own terms. The film affords a touching and inspirational experience to sojourn with someone who lives fully, throughout the dying trajectory. The film captures a beautiful aesthetic, the lessons of which are as instructive for living as they are for dying."
Dr. Nate Hinerman, Lecturer of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco, Chair of the San Francisco Bay Area Network for End-of-Life Care
"This documentary has the potential to affect not just individual viewers but the American way of death."
Marianna Torgovnick, TED Blog, which named the film to its list of '9 documentaries that you need to see this year...which no documentary fan should miss'
"The success...suggests that the film has hit a cultural nerve."
Glenn McDonald, Discovery News
"A Will for the Woods uplifts and inspires as it documents the tragic end of Clark Wang...[R]elevant in a profound way to each and every one of us...[o]ne felt the joy of a new beginning as deeply as the sadness of an ending. There was ample space for laughter along with the tears."
Bill Chameides, Dean, Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, THEGREENGROK blog
"A powerful, personal testament to the 'green burial' movement...With humor, eloquence, anguish and reflection...the film not only ardently advocates for natural burial, it walks us through the mourning process for a beautiful life that was too brief."
Sylvia Pfeiffenberger, Indy Week
"An immersive...heartwarming tale of one man's passionate struggle to find both peace on earth and peace in earth."
Elias Savada, Film Threat
"A Beautiful Rumination on Life, Death and Burial Choice...Advocating without preachiness and emotional without exploitation, this film is a lovely piece of work."
Dan Schindel, Nonfics
|Reduced rates for activist and grassroots groups. Please inquire.
Include SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.
The film's website
Host a community screening
Green Burial Council
Awards and Festivals
Audience Award, Environmental Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Audience Award, New Orleans Film Festival
Jury Award, Audience Award, San Francisco Indie Fest
Audience Award, Rhode Island International Film Festival
Programmer's Choice Award, Virginia Film Festival
Best Feature Documentary, Kansas City FilmFest
Fork in the Road Award, Greentopia|Film, Rochester, NY
AFI Documentary Film Festival
Newport Beach Film Festival
Cleveland International Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
FICA - Festival Internacional de Cinema e Vídeo Ambiental, Goias, Brazil
Atlanta Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Camden International Film Festival
Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
DocuWest International Film Festival
Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Tales from Planet Earth, Madison, WI
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival
Princeton Environmental Film Festival
Green Mountain Film Festival
Green Lens Environmental Film Festival
Natural Transitions Film Festival, Boulder, CO
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"A truly moving experience, and a testimony to the difference that a single life can make in the lives of others."
Jen Chaney, The Dissolve
"Big-hearted and thought-provoking."
Chris Barsanti, Film Journal International
"Far more impactful emotionally than just an issue documentary...what we have here is, thankfully, something far more emotionally engrossing and ultimately intellectually rewarding. A gorgeous, haunting, and lushly crafted meditation on one man's coming to terms with death...another great documentary in a year that has become as chock full of resonant pieces of non-fiction cinema as we've seen in ages."
Joshua Brunsting, CriterionCast
"A unique and unflinching examination."
John Esther, Jesther Entertainment
"Will make you reconsider how you want to die."
"A documentary not to be missed...[a] gem of a movie."
Fran Sorin, Gardening Gone Wild
"I don't remember ever so highly recommending a documentary...a powerful testimonial for why you should seriously consider green burial."
Fran Sorin, author, Digging Deep
"A profound statement...a touching film and a very important one."
Nell Minow, BeliefNet
"Up-close-and-personal...a documentary that environmentally conscious men and women will want to see."
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice