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20 on 20: Essays in Celebration of FLEFF

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Editors’ Introduction

Stephen Tropiano and Patricia R. Zimmermann, coeditors

How do we celebrate 20 years of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) without simply wallowing in nostalgia for festivals past? 

We went in exactly the opposite direction. 

We decided to look to the future by asking twenty former FLEFF guests to ruminate on what new ideas, issues, or subjects were developing, percolating, or unresolved.  What were current debates, points of contention, projects, and tectonic shifts that opened them up to think in new ways? 

We invited the authors to contribute 1,000 word essays about what they determined to be significant debates and recalibrations in their respective fields.  We hope that these short form essays will be shared around the world via social media and listservs and be used in college syllabi and by other festivals and organizations.

Six of the writers are Ithaca College faculty from our business, health, music, screenwriting, theatre, and writing programs. Some are long-term collaborators with FLEFF, while others are new to the festival.  The remaining fourteen writers—all former festival guests--represent an international roster of activists, curators, distributors, exhibitors, filmmakers, journalists, nongovernmental organization staffers, novelists, poets, producers, programmers, and scholars.

FLEFF’s tag line – a Different Environment – undergirds how we conceptualized 20 on 20 and motivated our choice of contributors to this 20th anniversary project.

FLEFF is more than a film festival. It programs across a range of arts and intellectual spheres, including concerts, discussions, films, labs, new media, online digital art, performances, readings, rock shows, and video.

Heterogeneity drives the programming and organizational structure of FLEFF.  The purpose of a festival is not to produce and mobilize a party line, but to induce and provoke debate, discussion, and unsettlings across difference. 

The essays in 20 on 20 pulsate with this heterogeneity. 

They probe African cinema, Brazilian film, underground Chinese documentary, the recent resurgence of Latin American film, and the new landscapes of queer cinemas.

They navigate the vast media ecologies of community media, environmentally-engaged new media art, film festivals for water rights, changing platforms for the consumption of entertainment, nonprofit art cinemas, and social media anti-smoking public health campaigns.

They traverse how the arts locate us in the world and with others, looking at books on exile that bring us home, choral music, classical music and its audiences, poetry in Nigeria, and theatre of social change.

They examine conflicts between children’s health and public school, queer and black activism, totalitarian regimes and exiled artists, and women and the workplace..

20 on 20 offers more than a tribute to twenty years of FLEFF. 

As we look ahead, we hope these twenty essays circulate emerging ideas, disturb conventional thinking, make new connections, unhinge preconceptions-- and recirculate.

For her collaborative leadership and support of “20 on 20,” we thank Tanya Saunders, Assistant Provost of International Programs and Extended Studies at Ithaca College.  For his intellectual fire for all things environmental, we thank Tom Shevory, professor of politics at Ithaca College and longtime codirector of FLEFF.  For her sharp, smart, and strategic copyediting that honed every essay (including this one), we thank Jane Banks.