About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Friday, May 10, 2013
Blog posting written by Shawn Steiner, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts '13, FLEFF Intern, Elkridge, MD
It's been a good three years since I started college and I haven't missed a single Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. I was a blogger my freshman year, a willing participant under Dr. Zimmermann's tutelage my sophomore year and yet again a blogger this year, my junior/senior year at Ithaca College.
Each experience was different but equally amazing.
This year was especially great. With a revamped meeting structure and more diverse projects to work on I really got involved with the festival. And, since I'm a senior I didn't have any of those nerves popping up when I was talking to festival guests.
And, if there was one point to take away from all this it is this: "We need to do something together."
During each presentation, film or chat in the hallway where a couple people of differing skills were together it always seemed to lead to that conclusion. Transmedia especially seemed to be at the forefront of this.
Great projects require collaboration. Different people from different environments coming together to make something. Because if I have learned anything during my college experience it is that your good friend and editor that leans over your shoulder to tell you that your fade out doesn't work is in it for your best interest.
You have to listen to one another and evolve and move through various mediums to tell your story. Hopefully, after a few years in the field I'll be able to tell mine.
Thank you to everyone involved with FLEFF this year for the great time and learning experience.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Blog posting written by Shawn Steiner, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts '13, FLEFF Intern, Elkridge, MD
And once again we are back in Park 220 for FLEFF Lab Friday. Kelly Matheson from WITNESS is here and Dr. Patricia Zimmermann is moderating this hour. Come on by!
Kelly begins with the well-known video of Rodney King. It was the catalyst for witness and proved that video could enact social action and change. So, they got together and got video cameras all over to record stories all around. And for 20 years, after working through many issues, they are working to create many international videos and tell compelling stories.
QUESTION: Who is Oscar Grant?
How do you get your video seen when there is an absurd saturation of digital media out there? That is an issue that Kelly and others like her deal with constantly.
Informed consent is the current topic of Kelly's. She is screening clips from a huge variety of projects. Including a short from her TRUST series about youths fighting climate change.
An new take is how to take perpetrator shot video and turn it back onto the perpetrators, as opposed to the humiliation to the victim intended by the original video.
Verification is another thing that needs to be analyzed. Kelly cites the website storyful.com as a source for validation of video for news. Here is the fireball example that Kelly cites.
"Technology is always a double-edged sword."
QUESTION: What do you do when your documentary or video risks the well-being of your subject?
The question of reconciliation is a major talking point during the discussion. And it may bery well be added to Kelly's list of major things to think about when dealing with video. We need to determine how citizen-shot footage will allow usage in things like court cases and how they can be verified.
What does it mean when that image is recorded, circulates, or as evidence?
The ethics behind the usage of a video as evidence requires it to have a much more intense method of verification.
"Give the archive love. They are the unsung heroes."
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Blog posting written by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF intern, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
I'm currently sitting in Williams 202, waiting for the screening of Mansoor Behnam's experimental film, Cup of Coffee with Kafka. Behnam, himself, is here and ready to talk to the FLEFF-goers in the room. Stay tuned to read about Behnam's comments, and my thoughts on the film.
5:32 pm: Benham thanks the class for coming and introduces his film, Cup of Coffee with Kafka.
As an immigrant to Canada in 2006, Benham says that he experienced feelings of displacement and alienation in his time of transition, and that his work reflects very personally on his experience.
In 2010, he attended a panel with the theme of "in transit." Behnam says he was fascinated with the idea of transit and mobilities.
Along with a friend, Felipe Quetzalcoatl Quintanilla, a diasporic Mexican filmmaker, Behnam crafted an experimental documentary reflecting on the theme that fascinated and touched them both.
"It has an element of instability and change, so sometimes the film may look different than that of 'typical films'" he preludes.
The lights are dimming and the film is starting, get ready.....!
The film opens with a definition of the word "transit," followed by a handheld, sped up, blue filter-tinged shot of people and cars passing as the person holding the camera walks down the street. This lasts approximately 50 seconds until the film stops. Apparently we have only a short clip of the film set up on the computer, so it'll be a few minutes while moderator Tom Shevory figures things out.
5:42 pm: A DVD of the film is loaded and ready to go!
5:43 pm: The film is restarted, and this time it plays for more than 50 seconds (yay!). The handheld images taken while the cameraperson walks (which are reminiscent of the dizzying feature film, Cloverfield) are spliced between interviews of filmmakers as they explain their definition of transit.
Some filmmakers define the term literally, as a state of motion. Others offer up more creative definitions, often accompanied by stories and examples. I wish I had seen this film when I offered up my own definition of mobilities.
5:55 pm: More technical difficulties! Static noise consumes the classroom and the picture on screen breaks and jumps in slow motion. Once again, our moderator and filmmaker are on the case, trying to figure it out.
6:01 pm: The film is working again, but this time we're watching it through YouTube. Isn't technology great?
6:02: Except buffering. Buffering is not great. The classroom is ringing with suggestions on how to avoid the dreaded buffer awaiting a thirty-six minute film.
6:11: The film is working again, again.
The documentary-style interviews with the filmmakers offer some interesting views and definitions of the word "transit." But, coupled with visible microphones, varying aspect ratios, random cuts on action and more distanciating elements, the film is definitely experimental in nature - an interesting and refreshing take on the art of documentary filmmaking.
6:25 pm: The film has ended and Behnam is waiting to answer questions.
"I like nomadism. I'm trying to turn this concept of 'instability' and 'homelessness' into being 'in a home'."
"Through the element of change, we are actually fixed. We are fixed in a constant state of change."
6:31 pm: He explains concepts of change through examples of science and paradoxes.
"For me on one hand change is internal, it's existential. On the other hand, its physical. As an experimental filmmaker, I try to reflect that through my work. It's not bounded by rules or borders, so it can always be changing."
If you couldn't be here and would still like to see Behnam's film, you can find it on YouTube.
What is your definition of transit?
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Blog post written by Amber Thibault, Cinema and Photography ’15, FLEFF Intern, Lewiston, Maine.
Below I have assembled my top three list of films to see at Cinemapolis during this year's FLEFF. Your tastes may be different, but that's ok! This is just a sampling of the different types of films offered. You can access a full list of films for Cinemapolis at FLEFF 2013 Line Up To Date At Cinemapolis.
The first film I would like to see is All Together. It's a French comedy about five old friends who decided to live together to avoid having to move into a retirement home. The twist? A young ethnology student requests to live with them in order complete his degree with a thesis on the aging population. This film stars Jane Fonda, Pierre Richard, Claude Rich, Geraldine Chaplin, Daniel Brühl and Guy Bedos. This distributor Rodrigo Brandao will be attending the festival. This is a clever and enticing comedy about the life's later years that you are not going to want to miss!
The second film I'd like to see is a little more serious. It's called Everyone's Child. It depicts the story of two children who are forced into early adulthood after their parents are killed by AIDS. Their uncle sells their plow and cattle to pay for their father's debts and the older brother and sister, Tamari and Itai, are forced to find a way to support their younger siblings. This is a thoughtful and heart-wrenching film about the triumph of human condition in the face of tragedy. Filmmaker Tsitsi Dargarembga will be attending the festival!
The third film I would like to engage in is AKA Doc Pomus, a documentary about successful songwriter Doc Pomus. He is known for writing much of the popular music that we still remember today, from big band music and classic rock and roll to love songs and classic R&B. Some of his credits include Save the Last Dance performed by The Drifters, Hushabye performed by the Beach Boys, and Lonely Avenue performed by Ray Charles along. If you like any of the songs you should check out this behind the scenes look at the life of Doc Pomus. Director Peter Miller will be attending the festival!
Don't forget to purchase you FLEFF passes at the Ithaca College Bookstore or downtown at Cinemapolis. One pass will get you into FIVE FILMS! $20 dollar discounted price for students and $40 for all other FLEFF fans.
So many films to see, so little time! Which will you choose to partake in?
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Blog post written by Gena Mangiaratti, Journalism ‘13, FLEFF Intern, Feeding Hills, Massachusetts
I recently got in touch with cinematographer and director Arthur Smith, who will be screening his documentary What Do Polar Bears Dream While They're Dying at 2:10 pm on Sunday, April 17 at Cinemapolis.
Smith, who lives in Alaska and warned me of the difficulties that could come with making a phone connection to the Arctic, took the time to answer my questions about his work in the following e-mail interview.
GM: When and how did you end up in Alaska?
AS: I came to Alaska in 1992 on photo assignment. I returned again in 1993 and traveled to the Arctic for a "bird shoot". I immediately connected in a way that would prove to become an irresistible draw. In 2004 I came back to the Arctic and have since called it home.
GM: Can you tell me a little about why you chose to make a film about polar bears?
AS: It was not that I chose to make a film about polar bears; I came back to the Arctic to make a film about us — to find and identify that which compelled me to return north, to answer questions that I now believe I have just begun to understand.
There is a connection to life that I believe is critical to the understanding and exercise of our place in the world.
I feel strongly that if the connection is severed, or denied in total, a chaos, or disunity follows, leading to a free fall of civilization. I question whether or not this may be the repetitive trigger that so many civilizations before us have suffered. I question whether or not we are now there, staring into that abyss.
While polar bears are the most amazing animals I've ever witnessed, it's their innocence and purity that strikes a contrast to the corruption and greed that we humans choose to exercise.
Polar bears have become the perfect mirror in which, if we dare look, the state of humanity is reflected. On so many levels and in so many ways, the Arctic now stands as a turning point in our history.
What I mean is: we cannot deny the facts that have surfaced; we cannot deny the responsibility of our actions. We should act to correct our course, but are likely to choose to do nothing, believing that more of what has brought us here, to this point in time, will somehow result in a different answer.
I am making films about polar bears so that we may see ourselves, to understand the true costs at stake, to measure how close we are to so perfect a life that we may soon doom to extinction.
The danger here is not that history will judge the course we elect, but that we'll be our own judges in real time. The fate visited upon the polar bear is the same fate we are visiting upon ourselves.
GM: How does the power of the red one camera contribute to your work's purpose?
AS: As an independent filmmaker, the RED is a tool of immeasurable worth. It presents the ability to translate vision to art in a way that only a full 35mm cine system could previously accomplish.
To a studio setting, to big budget films, it may present a new way to continue what already is, but to someone like me, unsupported in a place such as the Arctic, the RED presents a revolutionary approach, redefining what is possible.
GM: A flyer for your film states: "life poisoned/home denied/death by greed/what if we all are the polar bear."
Those first three lines almost sound like they could relate to a crisis involving human rights. Is this something you had in mind when coming up with the concept for this film?
AS: This is what I had in mind before I returned to the Arctic in 2004. How we value and treat life is reflected in all life. We cannot honestly compartmentalize life, creating single-dimensional aspects separate and apart from all others and then judge that individually, we stand safely. All life is connected.
The toxification of the Arctic is a human rights issue. The Inuit are the hardest hit people on earth. Beyond the Arctic, however, studies are revealing that humans worldwide are carrying a lot of toxins. I refer to this in my movie as well.
The polar bears share their fate, they reflect what we are doing to others and now, to ourselves, as new studies are revealing.
GM: The trailer for your film states that “Polar bears and pregnant women share many things in common.” How did you come up with the comparison between polar bears and pregnant women?
AS: Many of the same toxins that are appearing in pregnant women have been known to exist in polar bears and Inuit people for many years. It was thought to be an Arctic problem. Now we are learning it is a burden visited upon us all.
In a measure of the most sacred aspect of life, renewal, I'm wondering if we retain enough respect for life to not accept that our mothers, wives, daughters and children are to become the bearers of a toxic legacy.
As we have a tendency to study and review and study again, awaiting an answer before we act, I have to believe that some instances represent such an abhorrent and intuitive affront to life, that there can be only one answer: no. No levels of toxins are acceptable. I think it's fairly easy to understand that this is not a situation where we should wait until it's broken before we respond.
These toxins persist for decades. Studies on PBDE's began in the 90's. A decade passed before action was taken. The price we will pay has yet to be fully realized. When the day comes that really bad news breaks, we will bear consequences that we are unprepared to accept.
Read the study on the impact of the Exxon Valdez spill upon Orcas:
GM: How did you stay safe in filming this? How did you make it so your presence did not disrupt or affect the bears?
AS: Polar bears are perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented predators in natural history. They are in fact social animals that are comprised of members of extended family groups; I like the term "clan".
Their behavior and tolerance toward each other translates to a generalized behavioral acceptance. Provided one is not the menu, and not a threat, what is left to be concerned with?
As in any and all things, understanding is paramount. I've learned polar bears. You must be respectful and sensitive of their space. One's behavior over time wins a trust and equivalent respect in return.
Many times, polar bears have accepted my presence and become completely oblivious to me. I never push them. They come close enough out of their own natural curiosity.
Certainly I make use of long focal lengths and am always mindful of physical exposure. One point here is important: these bears are in great condition, very healthy and not starving.
Starving or famished predators are dangerous, but as I addressed in so many of the presentations of my first film, Ice Bears of the Beaufort, so would be a population of starving humans. For me, it's a relatively easy task to safely and properly assess the demeanor of the bears by watching their behavior and judging their "civility."
If there's a touchy or problem bear, so far, I've succeeded in identifying and avoiding them.
GM: What do you hope a student audience will take from this film?
AS: I remember the 60's, the power and change represented within the unified cause for a just and civil state. That power still exists, but must be realized and acted upon to affect a new direction for our future. More of the same is no longer going to work.
Save the date! - 2:10 pm on Sunday, April 17 at Cinemapolis, Arthur Smith will be screening and discussing What Do Polar Bears Dream When They're Dying.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Blog post written by Brian McCormick, Film, Photo & Visual Arts '12, FLEFF Intern, Wilbraham, MA
With FLEFF almost two weeks away, I'm prepping myself for the films and events that I really want to see. I am especially excited for the wealth of documentaries being showed by internationally recognized filmmakers.
I am drawn to "human documentaries," which focus on human subjects' personal stories in order to speak to a whole, larger truth. Do you have a favorite kind of documentary?
I've focused my top five exclusively on the films being shown downtown at Cinemapolis -- for a larger list of documentaries and other films, make sure to check out our listings.
1) GOOD FORTUNE - a film by Landon Van Soest and Jeremy Levine
I had the privilege of interviewing Van Soest about his film and it sounds phenomenal. In Good Fortune, they explore the negative repercussions of efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa, honing in on the stories of Jackson and Silva who live in Kenya.
This is an extremely controversial subject. We are asked always to send money to these causes, but how do we know where that money is going? And also, is power always inevitably going to corrupt? Do we sacrifice good intentions for the "greater good"?
I think Jackson and Silva have an important story for us to hear.
(Showtimes: Cinemapolis, Sun. April 17 @ 2:00PM w/ Jeremy Levine, and 9:30PM)
2) AGRARIAN UTOPIA - a film by Uruphong Raksasad
The trailer for this film was the first piece of FLEFF that I saw, and I was blown away by the beauty and power in those images. This film shows two families working together on the same farm, trying to get through the season while adjusting to the country's changing economy, politics and society.
This documentary asks, does development and progression always mean increased happiness?
(Showtimes: Cinemapolis, Fri. April 15 @ 7:30PM; Sat. April 16 @ 9:30PM)
3) BUDRUS - a film by Julia Bacha and Ronit Avni
The Israeli village Budrus, with Palestinians and Israelis, Hammas and Fatahs, men and women, unite in non-violent protest against Israel's Separation Border, otherwise known as "the Fence." They are led by local community organizer Ayed Morrar, who brings the people together to save Budrus from destruction.
This is an inspiring story of unification against a common enemy, highlighted by Morrar's 15-year-old daughter Iltezam, who launches a contigent of women that quickly moves to the front lines (father and daughter side-by-side). The film chronicles this movement, which is still continuing today.
As said by a Fatah Party Member in the film: "I felt that, in order to succeed, we had to empty our minds of traditional thinking." This speaks wonderfully to the new environments and new ideas we are looking to explore here at FLEFF.
(Showtimes: Cinemapolis, Thur. April 14 @ 7:10PM; Sat. April 16 @ 9:30PM)
4) PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME - a film by Jenny Stein and James LaVeck
This documentary takes a hard, powerful look at how farmers are beginning to question traditional practices of handling animals and treating them as commodities. This is a very moving film that will give you the kind "inside look" into a way of life we don't think twice about. I think this is a very important film for us to see.
(Showtimes: Cinemapolis, Thur. April 14 @ 7:00PM; Sat. April 16 @ 9:30PM)
5) LOS HEREDEROS - a film by Eugenio Polgovsky
A look at child labor in rural Mexico, and how it has become a condition passed down from generation to generation. If you watch the trailer, you see it is a continuous cycle of labor: collecting water, shoveling, harvesting, sculpting, and so on. These children inherit these duties and are trapped in this cycle. Is it fair that our duties are determined by birth?
(Showtimes: Cinemapolis, Thur. April 14 @ 9:30PM; Fri. April 15 @ 10:00PM)
Well, there's MY list. I hope you're all looking through the films and finding out what you want to see.
The best part is that we have both the films AND their filmmakers -- any questions you have can be answered the same night you see it. Looking forward to it.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Blog was written by Brian McCormick, Film, Photo & Visual Arts, '12, FLEFF intern, Wilbraham, MA.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with FLEFF filmmaker Landon Van Soest, an Ithaca College alumn (‘04), who is screening his documentary “Good Fortune” at FLEFF 2011. As the film’s director/producer, Van Soest works alongside partner producer/editor Jeremy Levine. Together, they operate their own production company, Transient Pictures.
Prior to making “Good Fortune,” Van Soest was a film major at Ithaca College, where he produced the award-winning documentary “Walking the Line.”
Van Soest was able to travel extensively while in college, including participation in a SIT study abroad program in Kenya where he lived with local families. His witness to the extreme poverty there inspired him to return to Kenya on a Fulbright grant to learn more about international development. In Kenya, he talked to people whose lives made more difficult--rather than improved-- by the influx of international aid and development. This observation led him to produce his next film, "Good Fortune."
Q: What is "Good Fortune" about?
A: "Good Fortune is about the unintended consequences of large scale international aid projects that are imposed on African communities. The film follows two very different approaches to development aid projects with strikingly similar outcomes."
Q: Can you talk about the film's subjects, Jackson and Silva?
A: "Jackson is a farmer in a rural area of who's home is being flooded by an American corporation intent on stimulating commercial agriculture in the region. Silva works as a midwife in Nairobi's largest slum, where UN Habitat has launched a major 'slum-upgrading' project.
In both cases the development organizations aim to address poverty and improve the lifestyles of the community, but for people like Jackson and Silva, the projects threaten to destroy their homes and livelihoods."
Q: How long did it take to make "Good Fortune"?
A: “There were a couple of moments where we were really on edge, but overall it went surprisingly smooth, albeit a slow process. From start to finish it’s taken about four years, with about three years of shooting.”
Q: What are your influences as a documentary filmmaker?
A: "I'm influenced by so many things its hard to know where to start.
The great thing about documentary filmmaking is that it allows you to synthesize so many things––visual arts, narrative story telling, social commentary, etc.––in one medium, so influences can come from a variety of places.
I can say that documentary has been evolving rapidly over the past ten years or so and there are a number of people pushing the medium forward, so its truly an exciting time to be making films."
Q: What advice do you have for emerging filmmakers?
A: "Just make movies.
It’s easy to get caught up in other things. Some people get decent jobs with production companies and get caught up with that, which isn’t a bad thing.
But if you want to be a filmmaker, the best way is to just get out there and make films.”
Q: Why is "Good Fortune" important to FLEFF?
A: "Good Fortune asks us to reassess our relationship with the developing world.
The film asserts that we, as Western citizens, project a paternalistic attitude toward other cultures, economies, and the natural world. Reassessing these relationships, and striving for a more equitable, sustainable world are the essence of what FLEFF has always embodied for me."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Because Van Soest is currently shooting for his next film in Abu Dhabi, his partner Jeremey Levine will be on hand to discuss the film at FLEFF 2011.
What does it mean to screen "Good Fortune" at FLEFF for Van Soest ?
"I studied filmmaking at Ithaca College, where I met my co-producer Jeremy Levine. So screening at FLEFF is a wonderful homecoming for us," Van Soest explained.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Blog post written by Kelsey Green, Documentary Studies and Production, '13, FLEFF intern, Buffalo, New York
I grew up an hour outside of Buffalo, NY, but currently, I reside in Ithaca, New York, where I am a sophomore enrolled in Documentary Studies and Production at Ithaca College.
I am from a rural area and therefore enjoy many activities outdoors such as horseback riding, kayaking, and hiking. Ithaca is a great place to pursue my studies because there are so many natural areas to explore nearby.
On campus, I am engaged in several ways. I am a resident assistant for the first year living community on campus. And, I'm also a dean’s host for the Roy H. Park School of Communications.
When I am not on duty in the residential halls or giving tours of the Park School, the multimedia section of The Ithacan keeps me busy. I am regularly creating short videos and slideshows for the online section of the paper. On weekends, I get a thrill out of filming Cornell hockey games for the ICTV show Big Red Faceoff.
Education is very important to me. I do what I can to help youth, because I believe they are our future. Once a week, I go to the Ithaca High School to tutor local students. I also work through a program on campus to talk with visiting ninth graders about my college experiences. I hope to become a film producer after I finish my degree, but I am also interested in becoming a professor.
Why am I interested in documentaries and new media? Because I am amazed at the power they have in raising awareness and prompting social change. The engagement involved not only by the creators, but also by the audience, fascinates me. So, that's why I am excited to become more immersed in the media world through FLEFF. The opportunity to see so many different forms of art and to meet so many different leading artists is incredible!
What are you looking forward to in the 2011 edition of FLEFF? Are there certain artists you’re particularly excited to hear speak?