October 7, 2002

Film Festival Highlights Environment Issues

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Students gathered to discuss and share concerns about the environment during the Cornell Environmental Film Festival, in which over 30 films were presented in conjunction with discussions led by filmmakers, professors and policy makers.

The Film Festival, which features over 30 films and runs from Oct. 4-10 this year, was started by graduate student Roopali Phadke in 1996 to promote awareness about environmental concerns. Though Phadke left Cornell one year after starting the festival, festival Coordinator Christopher Riley has extended the festival into an annual event that now includes other campuses such as Ithaca College, Wells College and Syracuse University.

“The idea was to bring environmental issues to campus and to get people to talk about them. People who aren’t activists will still think about [environmental issues] differently,” said Riley.

To accomplish this goal, the festival displays a variety of films ranging from documentaries and narratives to animated films such as “Environmental Animations”.

“The purpose [of the Festival] has expanded,” Riley said. “The overall idea is to get people to see these films to elicit response and discussion. There is a huge variety.”

The festival began Friday with a screening of “Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time” along with an introduction by Prof. Tom Whitlow, horticulture. Goldsworthy made sculptures out of natural materials in the Fall Creek gorge in October 1999. Topics addressed by the films include the effects of agriculture on the environment, effects of development on the environment as displayed in the film “Sunshine State,” and the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 in “Bhopal Express” and “The Heart Becomes Quiet.”

One of the primary goals of the festival is to get students to discuss the issues that the films present.

“Discussion is important because there aren’t any easy answers,” Riley said. “A lot of these films [present problems with] no easy solutions.”

Riley added, “Environmental film lets you think about [the issues] visually and intellectually. Discussion helps you combine and process” visual and intellectual responses.”

Among the films presented during the festival, many were accompanied with discussions led by the filmmakers themselves.

Many students enjoyed one of the films that had a discussion, James Benning’s “The California Trilogy: El Valley Centro, Los, and Sogobi.”

“I came because I love James Benning films and how they deal with the landscape,” said Brooke White grad.

The film is a trilogy composed of 35 two-and-a-half minute shots, taken over one year, that show how the California landscape has been affected by agriculture and industry.

“The film speaks to concerns about what man is doing to the environment,” said Carrie Marill grad.

The Festival will end on Thursday with the documentary, “Blue Vinyl” by Judith Helfand, which won the Peabody award.

Archived article by Carrie Tremblatt