During her fifteen years at the helm of public programming at the American Museum of Natural History, Flo Stone learned that film was a great draw. In 1993, Stone founded the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (EFF), an event that celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. From March 13th to the 25th, over 30,000 people will gather in locations all over Washington, DC for screenings of 180 different films—from documentaries to animated features. Orion is a proud media sponsor of this year’s Festival, and several staff members will be in attendance and hosting reader meetups. Watch our Facebook page for details.
What’s the role of film in dealing with our environmental challenges?
In the first years of the EFF, people often asked: why environmental films? To attract large audiences, some suggested that we drop the word “environment,” but, for me, the environment is all encompassing and central to our life and future.
Film tells stories in so many different ways. We need talented filmmakers to give us unforgettable experiences and a greater understanding of the challenges we face. Never underestimate the power of film at its most compelling and artistic.
What has surprised you about the films you’ve screened over the years?
The range of responses often amazes me. Film is a subjective medium—a film may offend one person and not faze another. Once, a staff member on a written evaluation described a film as the best that year, while a loyal volunteer wrote that it was impossible to understand how such a boring, confused look at pollution had been allowed in the lineup! And we’ve been challenged by people not wanting us to screen certain films: Gasland, The World According to Monsanto, and The Price of Sugar come to mind. We’ve always shown what we’ve scheduled, though.
Are all the films that appear at the Festival documentaries?
Yes, most of them are, but we also show narrative features, animated films, archival films, and experimental films. We want to hear different voices, and we want films that increase attendance and participation at the screening events.
Food is an increasingly present theme. What’s exciting from that category this year?
Our pre-Festival screening for middle and high school students is Cafeteria Man, about a chef who became a food service director trying to green lunches for Baltimore’s 83,000 students. To Make A Farm is about the trials of people turning to farming as a way of life, and Greenhorns profiles young farmers in the U.S. The Harvest: The Story of the Children Who Feed America is about young migrant workers. There’s also Symphony of the Soil, a comprehensive exploration of soil worldwide, which is directed by Deborah Koons Garcia, who made another film called The Future of Food.
What are you looking forward to during the 20th Festival this month?
I’m looking forward to Last Call at the Oasis, Participant Media’s new film about the global water crisis, and to welcoming Alex Prud’homme, whose book, The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the 21st Century, inspired the film. I’ll also present some of my favorite animated films from past Festivals, including two Oscar winners from Canada: The Man Who Planted Trees and Old Man and the Sea.
Goldman Environmental Prize winner Hilton Kelley will come to the Howard University screening of Shelter In Place, about civil rights and pollution in Port Arthur, Texas, which is really important. And then there’s the screening of the Festival’s final offering, A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet, with the filmmaker Mark Kitchell on hand.
But there’s so much more: we’ll be screening 180 films—93 premieres—with work from 42 countries. And with 77 filmmakers and 115 special guests in attendance, we hope to draw the biggest crowd ever this year!
Find more information about screenings, guests, and events at the Festival at www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org, and watch Orion’s Facebook page for announcements about staff appearances and reader meetups. We’d love to meet you!