BC Alum Warming Hearts at the MFA with A Will for the Woods

By Cuilin Chen


Award winning documentary
Saturday, October 11th @ 2:30pm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

If tomorrow were your last day, would you live it differently? What would you do? What kind of person would you think you were?

Directed by Boston College alumni Jeremy Kaplan and Tony Hale, documentary feature “A Will for the Woods” follows Clark Wang, a dying man who decided that his last act would be a gift to the planet — a green burial. A musician, psychiatrist, and folk dancer, Wang battled lymphoma for eight years, which aroused his concern for the environment and inspired him to take part in the green burial movement. Although the disease eventually exhausted Clark’s body, his spirit lives on in the legacy he left for the ecosystem.

Hale and Kaplan are both Brooklyn based and produce work that demonstrates a strong interest and genuine concern for the environment. They consider “A Will for the Woods” their most gratifying production to date. With their co-directors, they followed Clark for a year and filmed his personal life so closely that it’s difficult not to get caught up in the emotional power of Clark’s story. Along with Clark’s loving community, we are constantly confronted by his struggle between despair and hope: an approaching death is certain, yet unknown. Such a paradox prevails in human life — first we must realize how powerless we are, then we become powerful with that realization.

Kaplan described the film as “intimate” and said the film’s aesthetics are rooted very much in nature as well as human nature. The directors also told me that it was not easy to touch on a topic that has something to do with death. I could only imagine the difficulties the film may have faced in funding and reception. But as a viewer, I felt surprisingly consolidated in the end. It is as if you have been stumbling in darkness for so long that you would not even desire a compensating destination close to the sun, rather you would be happy to catch just a beam of light. Name it mortality, misfortune or anguish, it is by force we live with such a complication, yet it is by choice how we live it.

Directors Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, Brian Wilson and Amy Browne (l-r).

Directors Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, Brian Wilson and Amy Browne (l-r).


The scenes effectively capture the beauty of nature. A blossom for spring or a snowflake for winter, seasonal changes are parallel to the cyclical pattern of life. The film is also unified by a harmony in the relationship between humans and a harmony between human and nature. Clark did not fight alone. For his own life as well as the green burial movement, he had a supportive community that loved him dearly and would carry his spirit onwards. In this sense, Clark entered the endless cycle of life. In a larger sense, he entered this cycle by returning to nature.  Therefore, when I reflect upon my own life, I come to a two-fold definition of it: Who have I loved? What have I loved?

With tears in their eyes, many viewers were deeply touched by the film, which sparkled a lively discussion in the Q&A afterwards.

I have yet to find out answers for my questions, for it is my story. The film, however, is about the Green Burial Movement, embodied by mainly the personal story of Clark, and stories of many others. It is intertwining, poetic, or quoting the directors, rather “organic”.

Jeremy Kaplan, Co-director/Director of Photography, received his BA in film and philosophy in Boston College. His documentaries have brought him around the globe, yet among all, he finds A Will for the Woods his most gratifying work. Tony Hale, Co-director/Editor, studied Mathematics at Boston College and rediscovered his passion in filmmaking later. His works include non-fiction and narrative projects as well as character-based stories