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About the Film


Determined that his last act will be a gift to the planet, musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial.

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About the Film


Determined that his last act will be a gift to the planet, musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial.

Synopses, Trailer & Press kit
awards, reviews & Testimonials
people from the film
Meet the team
Directors' statement
 

SHORT SYNOPSIS

What if our last act could be a gift to the planet? Determined that his final resting place will benefit the earth, musician, psychiatrist, and folk dancer Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial while battling lymphoma. The spirited Clark and his partner Jane, boldly facing his mortality, embrace the planning of a spiritually meaningful funeral and join with a compassionate local cemetarian to use green burial to save a North Carolina woods from being clear-cut. 

With poignancy and unexpected humor, A Will for the Woods portrays the last days of a multifaceted advocate – and one community's role in the genesis of a revolutionary movement. As the film follows Clark's dream of leaving a legacy in harmony with timeless cycles, environmentalism takes on a profound intimacy.  

LONG SYNOPSIS

What if our last act could be a gift to the planet? Musician, psychiatrist, and folk dancer Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial in this immersive documentary. 

While battling lymphoma, Clark has discovered a burgeoning movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas, forgoing contemporary funeral practices that operate at the ecosystem's expense. Boldly facing his mortality, Clark and his partner Jane have become passionate about green burial, compelled by both the environmental benefits and the idea that one can remain within the cycle of life, rather than being cut off from it. The spirited pair have inspired a compassionate local cemetarian, and together they aim to use green burial to save a North Carolina woods from being clear-cut.

Making the most of the time that he has, Clark finds joy in his music and dance, connection with his friends and family, and great comfort in the knowledge that his death, whenever it happens, will be a force for regeneration. The film follows Clark's dream of leaving a loving, permanent legacy, and environmentalism takes on a deeply human intimacy. 

Documenting one community's role in the genesis of a revolutionary movement, A Will for the Woods draws the viewer into a life-affirming portrait of people embracing their connection to each other and to timeless natural cycles.

TRAILER

 

PRESS KIT

Press Kit – PDF
Downloadable Press Kit – zip file, with pdf and images

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Awards, Reviews & Testimonials


This feature documentary has been honored as the recipient of nine international film festival awards and critical acclaim. 

Awards, Reviews & Testimonials


This feature documentary has been honored as the recipient of nine international film festival awards and critical acclaim. 

Awards:

AUDIENCE AWARD — Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD — Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
AUDIENCE AWARD — New Orleans Film Festival  
PROGRAMMER'S AWARD — Virginia Film Festival
AUDIENCE AWARD — San Francisco IndieFest
JURY AWARD — San Francisco IndieFest
BEST US/INTERNATIONAL FEATURE DOCUMENTARY — Kansas City FilmFest
AUDIENCE AWARD — Rhode Island Film Festival
"FORK IN THE ROAD" AWARD — Greentopia Film Festival

press coverage:

“Moving and inspiring … The film is about a life of purpose and a death with meaning.” Nell Minow, The Huffington Post

"★★★★ 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

“[One of] nine documentaries that you need to see this year … which no documentary fan should miss.” “Has the potential to affect not just individual viewers but the American way of death … Must-see.”  Marianna Torgovnick, TED

"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

“An immersive, heartwarming tale.” Elias Savada, Film Threat

"Big-hearted and thought-provoking." “A Will for the Woods is more contemplative than preachy … that generosity makes for a finer film.” Chris Barsanti, Film Journal International

“A gorgeous, haunting, and lushly crafted meditation on one man’s coming to terms with death." "Far more impactful emotionally than just an issue documentary … what we have here is, thankfully, something far more emotionally engrossing and ultimately intellectually rewarding.” Joshua Brunsting, CriterionCast

“The film has hit a cultural nerve.” Glenn McDonald, Discovery News

“A powerful, personal testament to the ‘green burial’ movement … with humor, eloquence, anguish and reflection.” Sylvia Pfeiffenberger, Indy Week - Indy Pick

"Offers a fascinating angle on environmental equality" The Age & Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

A Will for the Woods uplifts and inspires” in covering a subject that is “relevant in a profound way to each and every one of us.” “One 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 of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, THEGREENGROK

"A unique and unflinching examination." John Esther, Jesther Entertainment

“This movie will open your eyes to a new way of thinking.” John Angelico, San Francisco Gate

“Will make you reconsider how you want to die.” Eric Eidelstein, Indiewire

“An information-packed documentary … But more than that, it's an intimate and unflinching look at the journey a couple takes in planning for imminent death.” Melissa Barber, Death with Dignity

“A documentary not to be missed … [a] gem of a movie.” “I don’t remember ever so highly recommending a documentary … a powerful testimonial for why you should seriously consider green burial.” Fran Sorin (author of Digging Deep), Gardening Gone Wild and FranSorin.com

"Explores the dimensions of life, terminal illness, loss of control, premature death, legacy, burial, and letting go in a moving and profound way … it’s an important discussion that we need to address." Melanie Votaw, Reel Life With Jane

"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 & Practice

Additional Press Coverage:

NonFics – 20 Necessary Docs About Death & Dying
Hyperallergic
Grist
Indiewire – Project of the Day
FilmWax Radio/Rooftop Films
NY Daily News
Vocativ
Film School Radio
Green Divas
Indiewood/Hollywoodn't
The Screen Feed/The Tribeca Trib
NCFlix
The Herald Sun, Durham
90.9 WBUR Boston
The News & Observer

Australian Press:

ABC News Breakfast
Crikey
SPOOK Magazine
Broadsheet Melbourne
ABC RN Drive
Silver Screen Snobs
 

Educational reviews:

“An intriguing portrait of American life in the search for the authentic and alternative in the maelstrom of modern life.” “Rich and multifaceted … I will use this in my teaching." Dr. Liv Nilsson Stutz, Lecturer, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Anthropology, Emory University

"A must see: A Will for the Woods is a moving and consciousness-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

"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

"The potential for the end of life … to promote conservation and renewal is profound, in this ultimately life-affirming portrayal. Highly recommended." The Midwest Book Review

"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

“It took four credited filmmakers – Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale and Brian Wilson – to bring us the news that a majority of Americans are not aware of the option of “green” burials … A fine compliment to Mark Harris’s 2008 book Grave Matters, which covers some of the same ground (no pun intended), this thought-provoking documentary on end-of-life issues is highly recommended.” C. Cassady, Video Librarian

audience testimonials

“It was the most incredible, moving, touching PBS program I have ever seen!!!” – Marla Ar, USA

“The group really enjoyed the film and being able to talk with Joe, Tony, and Brian.  There was a lot of great feedback and conversation. Not only about green burial, but also about the making of the film. We are looking forward to hosting another in the future. Thank you for such a moving film to share with our community!” – Margaret Puglisi, screening host from the Congressional Cemetery, DC, USA

“What an incredible piece of good fortune I feel came my way by being at this movie on Easter Sunday.  It has made what has been a devastating experience for Taryn (her friend) so much easier and so much more sincerely personal.” – Jacqueline Lesage, ACMI screening Melbourne, Australia

“Too important to miss!” – Judy James Kingsolver, USA

“Such an inspirational movie. When it is my time to go home this is how I want it to be. Meghan I know I am not with you but I wanted you to see this. This is what you watch when you get rid of cable TV.” – Susan Lowery, USA

“That documentary just took my breath away. I was humbled, I was crying, I was smiling, I felt special that someone would share that most tender part of themselves with me. I will rate it for you. Much love.” – Jeannine McAfee, USA

“Our Funeral Consumers Alliance just sponsored a showing last Saturday at a local church and everyone enjoyed it with lots of great discussion afterwards.” – Cindy Garner, Funeral Consumers Alliance, USA

“Congratulations on an honest and moving exploration of the subject.  I hope that Australia will be able to set up a few more bushland cemeteries - it's my wish to be buried in a shroud under (or next to) a beautiful eucalypt. (Not for a while yet of course!).” – Elaine Searle, funeral celebrant Australia

“This is the way it should be!  This to me is honoring our true connection with the Divine.” – Ambra Allgood, USA

“I live in So. Illinois and have always felt attached to our Shawnee National Forest. There is so much new development and private land with many natural areas around us. This documentary affected me so much as I am presently terminal due to a long term fight with a rare disease caught in the late stage. My dear friends/family has also watched and it has opened up the conversation of natural burial which is what I've always wanted but didn't know much about it. Clark has given me the strength to move forward with a place where many in our community would feel more comfortable with in burial. Hopefully we can keep moving forward with the resources given by #awillforthewoods.” – Molly McIntyre, IL, USA

“Thank you. I just watched your film on PBS Milwaukee. I have been researching green burial for myself and Clark's journey moved me very much. Thank you.” – Andrea Burns, WI, USA

“My father has cancer. My mother and I watched the documentary together. We have opted for a green burial for my father, who is 86. Clark Wang was such a fabulous human being. So intelligent, musical, and gentle. Thank you so much!” – Joan Tarpley Odom

“I saw this almost three years ago. It was very moving and touched many cords. I'm looking forward to seeing this all over again tonight.” – Jenny Manandhar Flynn

"Watched through tears. Broke my heart, gave me courage, changed my view of my end of life decisions. What an incredible young man, rich with grace and humor. Surrounded by wonderful people during his journey. Going home to be with Mother Nature." – Rose Stephan - December 12th, 2016 - Cape Canaveral, Florida

"I think that it is a really wonderful idea and gives people hope to have the option of a better funeral." – Cinque Garrison - December 11th, 2016 - Sacramento, California

"I caught most of Clark Wang film....I loved it and had never heard of a green funeral...I have always felt we should go back to our mother earth...this is what I want..." – Robert Beck - December 8th, 2016 - Meadville, Pennsylvania

"I've thought about how I want to be buried and I want to go into the earth as God has given his children has put back into the earth that he has created." – Richard Yancy - December 7th, 2016 - Council Bluffs, Iowa

"I have seen this a couple of times and find it to be a deeply moving film. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. By the time it was found, it had gone into my blood and there was nothing that could be done. I am not getting any type of "western medical treatment." I am going old school with this in terms of how I am taking care of myself, and three years later, I am still here. I do not have a lot of time left. I would love a green burial in California, but the cost would be prohibitive for my friend Julie and I do not have the money to pay for it. Therefore, I am having the shell cremated and there will be a disposition at sea in Ventura. It was the most cost effective way to have my wishes respected and I am making it as green an experience as possible. Thank you for this wonderful film." – Karen Carpenter - December 7th, 2016 - Phoenix, Arizona

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People From the Film


In this immersive documentary we are taken into the lives of Clark and his partner Jane, but A Will for the Woods is also about their surrounding supportive community as well as some of the impassioned advocates in the burgeoning green burial movement. Here are the main people you meet in the film. 

People From the Film


In this immersive documentary we are taken into the lives of Clark and his partner Jane, but A Will for the Woods is also about their surrounding supportive community as well as some of the impassioned advocates in the burgeoning green burial movement. Here are the main people you meet in the film. 

Clark Wang grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and came to Durham, North Carolina to attend Duke University, staying for medical school, then working his entire career in community psychiatry. His love of music led him to become an accomplished cellist, pianist, folk dancer, and accordionist. In 2004, Clark was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which initiated a transformation of his thinking on food and the environment, and ultimately, on the impact of burial and cremation. Clark became an advocate for green burial and expressed a passionate hope for a better and cleaner future for all.

Jane Ezzard met Clark while working with him at Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital. A New Yorker who found her way to Durham, Jane was not your average psychiatric nurse. She went against strict hospital conventions and became friends with her patients, making them laugh and dressing up in costumes. She and Clark each saw in the other a caring person who was dedicated to making a positive change in the lives of everyone on the ward. It was not long before the two went on their first date, to Clark’s folk dancing group. After Clark’s diagnosis, Jane was there to take care of him through it all.

Dyanne Matzkevich is the manager at Pine Forest Memorial Gardens in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where she opened the first green burial ground in the Triangle Area. When Clark approached Dyanne about initiating a green burial garden in their community, Dyanne had already been thinking about it and was enthusiastic to begin planning. It took a lot of hard work and persistence on her part, but now the green burial forest stands and a portion is deed restricted in perpetuity. (www.pineforestmemorial.com)

Joe Sehee is the founder of the Green Burial Council, a nonprofit that established the world's first standards for green burial. A Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program, Joe has been working in the green burial field since 2002 and has consulted for land trusts, park service agencies, and funeral organizations. He was the driving force behind a project in the Galisteo Basin Preserve, New Mexico to use burial as part of protecting 13,000 acres. Joe is working on spreading this concept of conservation burial throughout the US and internationally. (www.greeenburialcouncil.org)

Dr. Billy and Kimberley Campbell opened the Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina in 1998. It was here that Billy developed most of the standards for what is now known as conservation burial. Since opening Ramsey Creek, the Campbells have participated in the development of multiple other functioning projects. Ramsey Creek is currently 72 acres, which they hope to expand to 300 acres as part of their larger goal of conserving one million acres through green burial and other conservation initiatives. (www.memorialecosystems.com)

Kelly Lennon Weaver, a mother of two and North Carolina native, met Clark and Jane at a cancer support group after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. She introduced Clark to holistic alternatives to conventional medicine, which she credited with enabling her to outlive her doctors’ prognosis despite avoiding conventional treatment, and Clark introduced her to the concept of green burial. The three of them remained close friends — and even purchased neighboring plots in the green burial woods at Pine Forest.

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Meet the Team


Meet the Team


Amy Browne (Co-Director/Producer) grew up in Australia and moved to New York City at 19 to study theater at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and film at The New School University. Her other film credits include Production Coordinator on drama feature Valedictorian (Rotterdam 2015), Associate Producer for I Used to be Darker (Melbourne International Film Festival & Sundance 2013) and Crazy & Thief (LA Film Festival 2012), as well as work on The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (MIFF, Berlinale & Tribeca 2011), among may other short films and music videos. Amy has now returned home to Australia and recently finished work as Producer and Director of a series of short documentaries for the upcoming premier event festival21. When her sister Sophie introduced her to the concept of green burial, which connects the profundity and beauty of nature with the cycle of death and life, Amy was inspired to explore the idea through film.

Jeremy Kaplan (Co-Director/Cinematographer) received his B.A. from Boston College in Film and Philosophy and his M.A. in Documentary/Media Studies at The New School. His documentary work has brought him across the globe to Costa Rica, Egypt, and South Korea with topics ranging from the environmental impact of American corporations in Costa Rica to a portrait of a progressive New York orthodox Jewish community. The years spent on A Will for the Woods have been his most gratifying work yet, due to the moving subject matter and the collaborative nature of the project.

Tony Hale (Co-Director/Editor) first discovered digital editing through recording loops of his drum kit. Later, while studying Mathematics at Boston College and working at a Harvard University media lab, he rediscovered this passion in filmmaking. Now a freelance editor based in Brooklyn, he has worked on a number of non-fiction and narrative projects, many with an environmental focus. A Will for the Woods marks his first feature and combines his love of environmental documentary and character-based stories.

Brian Wilson (Co-Director/Editor) graduated from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature and History, and works as an editor in New York. Passionate about the natural world and its protection and restoration, he is pleased to be exploring and raising awareness about green burial with A Will for the Woods. He became interested in developing deeper insight into death after his mother died in 2008, and has been grateful to find it through working on this project, which he hopes will offer similar comfort and understanding to many viewers.

T. Griffin (Composer) is a songwriter, composer, and producer based in Brooklyn, New York. He has composed music for over 20 feature films and dozens of live multidisciplinary projects. He was one of six composers selected as a fellow at the Sundance Composer's lab in 2008 and has been nominated twice for Cinema Eye Honors for original music score. www.tgriffinmusic.com

Tom Paul (Sound Design), an Emmy Award winning re-recording mixer and highly regarded sound designer, is one of New York City's most sought after talents in the field of post production audio. Some highlights of his sound design and re-recording credits include the Academy Award winning films The Fog of War and Born Into Brothels. Other notable films include: Junebug, Palindromes, The Baxter, The King, and U2 360, the largest selling concert DVD of all time. Tom won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding mixing on Joe Berlinger's Under African Skies.

Nice Dissolve (Color Grading/DI) is a boutique post-production facility located in Brooklyn, NY. nicedissolve.com

The wider community: Throughout the years of making this film, many people lent their talents, guidance, and support to A Will for the Woods. Artists, technicians, trusted colleagues, friends, family, and the many people who participated in the filming all helped make the film what it became. Furthermore, the amazing support from all the backers of the film's Kickstarter crowd-sourcing campaign helped bring the film out into the world. See them all here!

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Directors' Statement


This is our collective reflection on how the film came to be – our inspirations and fascinations – as well as how we collaborated as four co-directors, and what we have learned and gained along the way.

Directors' Statement


This is our collective reflection on how the film came to be – our inspirations and fascinations – as well as how we collaborated as four co-directors, and what we have learned and gained along the way.

Stuck in traffic over the vast Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York, Amy Browne decided to make a film about green burial. She had first learned of the concept two years earlier from her sister, Sophie, who was researching the topic with Professor Roger Short of the University of Melbourne. While Amy had been curious about Sophie’s work, at twenty, she had not given death or funerals much thought, and conventional burial and cremation had not inspired her interest or awe. In 2009, Sophie came to visit Amy in New York and they took a road trip. Idling on the busy city overpass, Amy looked down on the stark cemetery crammed with tombstones, mausoleums, roads, and a scattering of trees. How depressing! What a waste! The place seemed spiritually, emotionally, and ecologically void — little chance for life, regeneration, or a meaningful legacy. Amy turned to her sister: “Tell me more about this green burial?”

That conversation led to what would become a four-year filmmaking journey, a collaboration between co-directors Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, and Brian Wilson. What drew the four of us to the topic was not a fascination with death, but a realization of the life-affirming power of this new/old idea that our bodies can remain within the cycle of life.

Inspired by the concept, Amy began researching the topic, and soon joined forces with Jeremy, whom she met at The New School. It seemed that everyone they talked to about green burial mentioned Joe Sehee, founder of the Green Burial Council. They arranged to meet him at a funeral convention in Texas, where they were immediately drawn to his charisma and passion for the cause. As the sole environmental regulator in the vast and entrenched multi-billion dollar funeral industry, Joe and his nonprofit organization were a compelling underdog story. Following Joe for several months opened up the very large scale of this issue and demonstrated that this infant environmental movement was growing into something that could change funeral and burial conventions, as well as attitudes about death.

Amy and Jeremy heard from Joe about a man in North Carolina who was planning his own funeral and inspiring his community to think about green burial — and that he would love to speak with them. Within minutes of meeting Clark, they were immersed in his daily life of doctor’s visits, radiation treatments, and discussing green burial with anyone who was interested. They quickly established a close connection with Clark and his partner Jane during that first week in Durham. After only a few days, Amy and Jeremy were moved and honored when Clark and Jane invited them to follow his entire journey, and if he didn’t beat the cancer, to film his funeral and burial. Clark wanted the world to witness the power, significance, and beauty he saw in green burial.

While Amy and Jeremy continued shooting, Tony and Brian began the editing process, and the four of us started to form the film’s story. We were beginning an intensive, collaborative, and moving two-plus years of editing, working with what would eventually be over 300 hours of footage. Deeply compelled to honor Clark’s wish and see his story told, we ultimately came to realize that certain story lines and statistics would have to move aside to make room for the intimacy that had been shared with us, and that it felt more appropriate and inspiring for the film to represent the idea of green burial through the scenes of Clark’s life.

For all of us, one of the core motivations in making A Will for the Woods was to shed light on this profound environmental and social movement. At first, we were primarily fascinated with green burial as a strategy for land conservation and the reduction of environmental impacts, but as we continued working on the film, and particularly through witnessing Clark’s journey, we saw what a powerful spiritual experience green burial can be. For many, including Clark, green burial offers the unexpected gift of a deeper understanding of our connection to the natural world — of what it means to die, but also live, sustainably and in harmony with nature. We hope that the film will provide this comfort for others.

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