Green burial is a hot topic these days, and a new documentary called “A Will For the Woods” takes on the issue by profiling the desire of one man to be buried without harming the environment.
This isn’t a dry film about the different ways that one can be buried without cutting down a tree or wasting land. Instead, filmmakers Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, and Brian Wilson opt to primarily follow one man’s spiritual journey with respect to green burial. That man is Clark Wang, a psychiatrist in North Carolina who was diagnosed with lymphoma.
They do interview other people around the country on the subject and provide some information about the green burial options available today, but Wang’s story is at the heart and center of the documentary. In other words, it’s more a human story – a narrative – than an informational piece. Wang wanted the movie to be made in the hopes that it would encourage others to consider environmentally sound burial methods.
People who want to explore the issue will likely need to do some more reading after seeing the film, but I think the footage explores the dimensions of life, terminal illness, loss of control, premature death, legacy, burial, and letting go in a moving and profound way, even if some of the details included are a bit mundane. (The filmmakers do include more green burial and green will resources on the website for the film, where you’ll also find a list of upcoming screenings.)
There is a quiet dignity in the way Wang handles what he is facing. At the end, we experience Wang’s version of green burial as his journey comes to an end during the making of the film.
Those who are uncomfortable with death will be equally uncomfortable watching someone plan his own death so carefully, but I believe it’s an important discussion that we need to address rather than sweep under the rug, hoping it will take care of itself.