Environmental films attract thousands

Environmental films attract thousands

WASHINGTON – One thing can be said about the Environmental Film Festival: it’s not Cannes or Sundance.

It may not even be Missoula. But it is part of a US trend to feature movies about nature and the assaults on it.The 11-day festival in Washington, which runs through Sunday, takes the widest possible view of what makes an environmental film, according to its founder, Flo Stone.”If you interpret the environment as we are …it’s about perception of your surroundings, of the world, of your own community, learning the incredible excitement of natural history and of life itself,” Stone said in an interview.There are certainly mainstream successes – including the Academy Award-winning ‘March of the Penguins’ – among the 100 films shown at theatres, museums, think tanks and embassies around the US capital.But there are also frankly quirky movies that might not find an audience any other way.One such entry is ‘The Concrete Revolution’, directed by Xiaolu Gue, a young woman who turned her camera on construction workers and others in Beijing as the Chinese capital gears up for the 2008 Olympics.Billed in the festival programme as a “meditation on life in a rapidly developing new China”, the hour-long film is undeniably affecting, especially when one country-bred worker weeps quietly as he talks about leaving his wife and family in his village as he works to demolish old homes in the city.Other films may not be so easily classified as environmental, such as Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei’s trio of movies, including ‘The Giant Buddhas’, which chronicles the destruction of the massive statues at Bamiyan by Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.”It’s somewhat astonishing,” Frei said, when asked in a telephone interview how his films fit into the environmental film festival.”When I was invited, I was sort of wondering why.I’m not really an environmental filmmaker, there’s no pollution….Everything is environment, if you want.”The Washington film festival, set up in 1993, is one of a handful in the United States devoted to environmental subjects.One of the oldest is the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana, now in its 29th year.Jackson Hole, Wyoming, also has a wildlife film festival, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, which has screened many environmental films.In New York state, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival runs from March 30 through April 6.These festivals are important for environmental filmmakers, according to director Gregory Greene, whose movie, ‘The End of Suburbia’ deals with the growing appetite for oil as it becomes harder to find.”For us as filmmakers …our ability to reach the general public is really dependent on film festivals like this,” Greene said in a telephone interview from Toronto.”It is the way that we can reach the general public …and warn the general public about what we’re advocating.”- Nampa-ReutersBut it is part of a US trend to feature movies about nature and the assaults on it.The 11-day festival in Washington, which runs through Sunday, takes the widest possible view of what makes an environmental film, according to its founder, Flo Stone.”If you interpret the environment as we are …it’s about perception of your surroundings, of the world, of your own community, learning the incredible excitement of natural history and of life itself,” Stone said in an interview.There are certainly mainstream successes – including the Academy Award-winning ‘March of the Penguins’ – among the 100 films shown at theatres, museums, think tanks and embassies around the US capital.But there are also frankly quirky movies that might not find an audience any other way.One such entry is ‘The Concrete Revolution’, directed by Xiaolu Gue, a young woman who turned her camera on construction workers and others in Beijing as the Chinese capital gears up for the 2008 Olympics.Billed in the festival programme as a “meditation on life in a rapidly developing new China”, the hour-long film is undeniably affecting, especially when one country-bred worker weeps quietly as he talks about leaving his wife and family in his village as he works to demolish old homes in the city.Other films may not be so easily classified as environmental, such as Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei’s trio of movies, including ‘The Giant Buddhas’, which chronicles the destruction of the massive statues at Bamiyan by Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.”It’s somewhat astonishing,” Frei said, when asked in a telephone interview how his films fit into the environmental film festival.”When I was invited, I was sort of wondering why.I’m not really an environmental filmmaker, there’s no pollution….Everything is environment, if you want.”The Washington film festival, set up in 1993, is one of a handful in the United States devoted to environmental subjects.One of the oldest is the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana, now in its 29th year.Jackson Hole, Wyoming, also has a wildlife film festival, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, which has screened many environmental films.In New York state, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival runs from March 30 through April 6.These festivals are important for environmental filmmakers, according to director Gregory Greene, whose movie, ‘The End of Suburbia’ deals with the growing appetite for oil as it becomes harder to find.”For us as filmmakers …our ability to reach the general public is really dependent on film festivals like this,” Greene said in a telephone interview from Toronto.”It is the way that we can reach the general public …and warn the general public about what we’re advocating.”- Nampa-Reuters

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