Film festival inspires change

It started 20 years ago as a relatively small showcase, but it lives on today as the nation’s largest celebration of environmental film.

Seeking to advance environmental causes through film, The Environmental Film Festival offers viewers the chance to witness a desire for change on screen through videos shot around the world.

This year’s event is the most ambitious project in the festival’s history, showcasing 180 different films in 64 venues across the city from March 13 to 25.

The environmental event began in 1993, founded by Flo Stone, who recognized the potential for environmental awareness in the still-emerging field of documentary filmmaking.

“People have become more concerned about the environment, and documentary films have become more prevalent and better,” Helen Strong, public affairs director of the festival, said. “These two trends have helped the festival grow and prosper.”

Last year the festival attracted more than 30,000 people to screenings across the city.

Strong said the stature of the festival has grown because of the types of films the festival showcases features stories to engage a varied audience.

“Most of the films we show are not overtly political. They address issues across the globe and frequently show the effects of environmental developments on ordinary people,” Strong said.

Senior Natalie Kornicks and junior Jon Fenech produced a short film, “Coffee in Crisis,” examining whether depleting coffee crops could be linked to climate change, something the duo took a look at both globally and within their local community.

“I think the film can advance environmental causes by showing that climate change is not as distant as most people think,” Kornicks said. “By putting climate change in terms most people understand, coffee, it is easier to grasp the concept and understand the consequences.”

The film was made as part of an SMPA class, linked to the environmental non-profit Planet Forward, in which students produced environmental or sustainability themed video pieces examining problems related to climate change, bio fuels and green business.

With “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” a 2012 Academy Award nominee for short documentary film, director Lucy Walker originally intended to create what she calls a “visual haiku about cherry blossoms,” but the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 led her to film a visual poem about the cherry blossom as a symbol of life and hope. It received the festival’s Polly Krakora Award for Artistry in Film.

“Symphony of the Soil,” opening on March 25, combines ancient knowledge and cutting-edge research into a narrative that explores exactly how important soil is to our planet.

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