A Will for the Woods is a remarkable, four-director documentary following the last few months of an environmentalist’s life. The four directors, three male and one female, each play a particular role behind the scenes – Amy Browne handles camera work while the other men function as editors.
The documentary follows the last few months of Clark Wang’s life. The middle-aged, Chinese-American dying from lymphoma is not only a trained psychiatrist, but a talented musician and committed environmentalist. Since he belongs to a group aiming to reclaim forest land, Clark builds his environmentally-safe coffin of old, preservative-free wood. But he isn’t the only person wanting to be buried in wooded areas instead of cemeteries. With the goal of preserving the forestland, people build coffins to naturally degrade into the earth. Their bodies are wrapped in a pure linen, shroud without chemicals or embalming fluid. There are no headstones or monuments, but simply little rocks with names engraved, a fascinating way of preserving forest land.
The film centers on Clark’s last year as he does everything possible to stay alive. He routinely schedules MRIs and chemotherapy sessions, eventually flying to Seattle for an experimental protocol. Through it all, Clark has the support of his partner, Jane Ezzard, facing every obstacle in a calm, methodical way.
The purpose of the “green movement” is to purchase and preserve woodlands. With this method, people are buried to become part of the earth rather than intruding themselves upon it. Instead marking a spot that would be a permanent monument, they decompose and become part of the tree they are buried underneath. He chose to die in a way that made him a part of the ongoing lifecycle of the planet. He knew he wanted to do well for the planet, and he did. There are sentimental moments, but in general, A Will for the Woods is well-told with a balance between Clark’s final days and his entire life story dedicated to the environmental movement. I found it very touching.
Review © Jan Lisa Huttner (8/26/14)
Bottom Photo: In place of a headstone or monument, an engraved stone is placed with the name engraved.
Q #1: Does A Will for the Woods pass the Bechdel Test?