From Turtles to Troubled Times: Hot Docs Festival Wraps in Toronto
The Chances of the World Changing was a melancholy look through the eyes of troubled NYC writer Richard Ogust, who, years ago, rescued a turtle from an Asian food market. His passion for saving turtles grew until he ended up with over 1600 turtles in his Manhattan apartment, many of them on the endangered species list. His life and ability to help the creatures spiraled downward, facing eviction, charges from wildlife authorities and declining resources to finance the $100,000+ a year venture.
The documentary takes us along for the ride, leading us all to hope that this man's dream of opening a herpetology institution on a farm in New Jersey would make all his struggles eventually seem worthwhile. We’re always told we can make our dreams come true, so can’t we? In fact, the filmmakers reveal at the screening that they had pictured Richard’s final narrative on the grounds of the turtles' new conservation area in NJ.
However, Richard makes his final remarks from Coney Island after some devastating realizations about this life's work and dreams. It left me with the feeling that the filmmakers had seemed intent to take us on the hard road from the very start, deciding to leave out every spark of life, every new egg hatched, every glory that Richard achieved along the way. In the end, it's Richard who reveals the narrative we’ve clung to all along, ”It's not the process he admits, it's the end goal”, and without achieving your dreams it makes the whole process worthless. I can’t say I agree, Richard made some amazing headway and I think he should be recognized for that alone. However where he failed, or where others failed him, was in raising the funds necessary to make the Herpetology Institution a reality.
As a turtle lover myself (see my 13-year-old turtle pictured above) I found it extremely hard to digest the lack of attention given to species who are falling into extinction, mostly because no institution exists that cares enough. The Turtle Survival Alliance does offer some hope but has very little funding to work with. If there is anything you can do to help, please visit: www.turtlesurvival.org