Adirondack Film Society screening: "Denial" with Aaron Woolf

The fall screening season of the Adirondack Film Society (AFS) extends into December at the historic Palace Theatre with a special presentation—and an Adirondack North Country premiere—of a new documentary by Aaron Woolf, who is probably best known in the region as a filmmaker for his highly acclaimed documentary about Big Agriculture, “King Corn.” For this new film, “DENIAL,” Woolf set out to tackle the complex issues of renewable energy and climate change by following the path of Vermont electric utility CEO David Hallquist, seen through the lens of his filmmaker son Derek Hallquist, to whom Dave has granted intimate access to the inner workings of the energy industry.

As a self-described “closet environmentalist,” Dave Hallquist is dedicated to addressing the way electricity use in America contributes to climate change. But his mission is balanced with the utility’s charge to provide affordable and reliable service to their customers. Business and the needs of the environment have typically collided. For Hallquist, increasing the efficiency of the grid is the only meaningful route to merging these priorities.

He implements one of the country’s first smart grids, decreasing outages, increasing the capacity for renewable sources and building a national reputation as an energy pioneer. Resistance, however, comes in many forms—traditionalists balk at renewable energy intermittency, solar and wind advocates think Hallquist is dragging his feet, and the public fears that smart meters on their homes will send private information about their energy use to the government.

But as Hallquist struggles to build the kind of transparent company whose honest approach can get stakeholders to accept the realities of how we generate and deliver electricity, he realizes he lacks transparency in his personal life and reveals to his son a lifelong secret. Dave Hallquist—who presents himself as a chainsaw-wielding, hardhat-wearing CEO in a male-dominated industry—is a woman inside.

Thus, the initial narrative driving “DENIAL” takes an unexpected turn toward an entirely new direction—and, for the filmmakers, uncharted territory. For this project, with Derek Hallquist directing, Aaron Woolf took on multiple roles as one of the film’s producers, writers and co-creators.

This special AFS screening at the Palace represents the Adirondack North Country premiere of “DENIAL,” which had been originally scheduled to take place this past June during the flagship event of the AFS, the annual Lake Placid Film Forum, when a region-wide power outage forced a postponement—the irony of which was not lost on the film’s presenters. “DENIAL” had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2016 and has been shown at numerous film festivals since then, including the Environmental Film Festival at Yale University where it was the Audience Award winner and the MiFo LGBT Film Festival of Miami-Fort Lauderdale (now rebranded as the OUTShine Film Festival) where “DENIAL” was the runner-up for the Jury Award.

Aaron Woolf, one of the film's producer/writers, will be appearing in person to introduce the film.

For this special event at the Palace Theatre, located in downtown Lake Placid at 2430 Main Street (box office: 518-523-9271), all seats are $10, with tickets available at the door, cash only.

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