Ithacans are famous for their powerful enthusiasm about protecting the world we inhabit. Sunday kicked off the screenings of the 16th annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Cinemapolis, a festival that was originally launched by Cornell University’s Center for the Environment in 1997 and was permanently taken over by Ithaca College in 2005. FLEFF is an environmental extravaganza that aims to explore international affairs and sustainability through a fantastic showcase of selected films. This year’s FLEFF edition, “Mobilities,” carries over 20 films from 12 countries of vastly different social and political backgrounds, such as Palestine, France, Korea, People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, the former USSR, and Zimbabwe.
The FLEFF lineup includes documentaries created last year alongside silent movies from nearly 90 years ago such as Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film October. Co-director Patricia Zimmermann said “there is absolutely no way to top what we programmed, with more films from more countries with more directors and more distributors.
And, we can promise more post-screening conversations of significance, a FLEFF trademark.”
Of the films mentioned on FLEFF’s screening list, two in particular caught my eye. One, Dear Governor Cuomo, is a persuasive and moving documentary arguing for banning Hydraulic Fracturing, or “fracking,” in upstate New York. Hydraulic fracturing is a mechanical extraction process of natural “clean” gas that has the potential of contaminating the underground drinking water surrounding the extraction site. I was shocked when, at one point in the documentary, a letter from an Ohio woman described her ordeal of having to get multiple organs removed after she drank contaminated water from her house tap, all because her neighbors signed an agreement that let a gas company drill in their backyard. The underlying moral of the documentary, perhaps, is that environmental nightmares are never all that far away. The anti-fracking movement of New York and FLEFF employ similar techniques to promote sustainability, using the collective force of local artisans, musicians and celebrities to work towards a goal of a safer and cleaner future.
The festival also features a Zimbabwean fictional movie called Everybody’s Child. Directed by talented filmmaker and author Tsitsi Dangarembga, the film explores the harsh conditions of children and orphans living in in Zimbabwe. The focus is on orphans Itayi and Tamari, who are devastated by the death of both of their parents and rejected by their extended family and the greater community. The two are left to fend for themselves in a brutal and unforgiving land. Everybody’s Child effectively depicts a morally confused and poverty-stricken society in Southeastern Africa. The orphaned children and widespread poverty portrayed in the film also exist in some other third-world countries, of course, so it’s no surprise that FLEFF introduces many similar films and documentaries. In one powerful example, Silenced Voices: Tales of Sri Lankan Journalists in Exile, issues of international poverty and of media openness are examined in fascinating detail.
What distinguishes FLEFF from other sustainability-focused film festivals is that it does not solely promote environmental documentaries: Its all-embracing range of art films, commercial narratives, shorts and experimental movies can meet anybody’s cinematic preference. So whether you are an environmental enthusiast, someone who has attended the festival in the past or someone who simply enjoys international movies, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival will fill your appetite for the week.
Original Author: Sally Gao