October 1, 2003

Film Fest Begins At C.U. Theaters

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The seventh annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival begins this Friday at the Cornell Cinema theater in the Straight with the screening of “My Architect: A Son’s Journey,” the story of a famous architect’s illegitimate son who attempts to connect with his father almost 20 years after his death.

During the festival, approximately 30 thematic films, including a few short films, will be shown over the course of seven days at a wide range of locations including Cornell, Ithaca College, the city of Ithaca, Wells College, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Syracuse. Though most of the showings will be free, a select few will charge an entry fee.

Because the films will fall under a very general environmental theme as implied by the festival’s title, the collection of topics will span time, culture and distance. Films such as “Friendship Village,” “The Return of Navajo Boy,” “Razing Appalachia,” and “An Injury to One” deal with historical, cultural and social issues while “Banana Split,” “Fish Out of Water,” “Butterfly” and “The Shaman’s Apprentice” directly concern environmental issues. Other films such as “E V O” and “The Doe Boy” explore personal struggles and philosophical questions.

“Outside of a more environmental theme, there isn’t a sub theme,” said Christopher Riley, festival director. “We [just] want to show the best available.” In planning the event for the sixth time, Riley found that forcing the festival to adhere to a specific theme had the effect of filtering out great productions.

In addition to a film screening, each event will include a speech and/or discussion facilitated by a filmmaker, producer or specialist on the topic of the movie.

The last event, a showing of “The Return of Navajo Boy” at Robert Purcell Community Center on Oct. 9, will feature Elsie Mae Begay, the subject of the film. Other specialists will include graduate students and professors at Cornell and Ithaca College.

Prof. Jefferson R Cowie, collective bargaining, will comment and encourage discussion after the showing of “An Injury to One.”

“The film is a combination of labor and environmental history,” Cowie said. “It looks at the mysterious death of [socialist] organizer Frank Little, sort of a legend in labor law, and puts that labor history in a dialogue of the landscape of Butte, Montana.”

At the event, Cowie intends to “say a few words after the film to facilitate discussion.” He has spoken several times at the annual film festival.

Another specialist, Prof. Ronald J. Herring, government, will speak at the showing of “Drowned Out,” a film that examines the displacement of about 16 million poor individuals in order to accommodate an Indian hydroelectric project called the Narmada Dam. “[The Narmada Dam] is something I know a lot about,” Herring said in an interview. Nonetheless, it seems that the film will be as much of a new adventure for Herring as it will be for members of the audience. “I don’t know anything about [this particular] film,” Herring said, though “I have seen a number of films that deal with the Narmada Dam.”

Herring emphatically urged students to “come see it!”

The film festival, originally entitled the Cornell Environmental Film Festival, has over the years captivated the interests of people throughout the region. “There is a lot of interest in these films and themes outside the [Cornell] campus,” Riley said. “That is one of the reasons the name has been changed to the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

Over the past few years, organizers have increased the number of venues to accommodate viewers outside of the Cornell community. These actions have helped to advance the festival’s goals, which “[have] always been to get people thinking and discussing these issues . . . to [present] films that would otherwise not have any other exposure,” Riley said.

Based on six years of experience, Riley estimates that about 2,000 movie-goers will attend the events at Cornell over the course of the week. Furthermore, many students will act as volunteers at the approximately 15 showings that will take place on campus.

Archived article by David Andrade