Festivals and Fire

By Lou Baron, February 22, 2021
Blogger Lou Baron explores the benefits of attending a film festival from the comfort of your own home.

Blog Posting by Lou Baron, Culture and Communication ‘23, minors in Spanish and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies.

“Cinema, of course, can never be divorced from the worlds in which films are produced…” 

Cindy Hing-Yuk Wong, Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen (160).

BEEP. 

BEEP. 

BEEP.

May I have your attention please? 

May I have your attention please?

A fire has been reported in the building. 

A fire has been reported in the building.

Please proceed to the stairways and exit the building.

Do not use the elevators.

BEEP.  

BEEP.  

BEEP.

At 7:13pm on a Tuesday, I did not expect my ears to be assaulted with that message.

Especially not smack in the middle of a discussion about the latest programming developments of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

While the specific content changes each year, FLEFF consistently screens films that speak to a plethora of human experiences around the globe. 

The aging, Black owner of a corner store in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The young, female textile factory worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

As film festival scholar Cindy Hing-Yuk Wong argues, human rights festivals bring the political concerns of a wide variety of private citizens into a singular public sphere.

Yet, as a blaring fire alarm so conspicuously reminded me last Tuesday, the participants of this year’s festival will not gather in a singular public sphere.

We will join each other in discussion from a multitude of private spheres.

As a college student in Ithaca, New York, my laptop is my passport to the worlds of FLEFF's programming.

For the first time, our locations as participants will be as heterogeneous as the stories curated for our screens. 

Comparing Wenhua Shi’s carefully choreographed landscapes to Cayuga Lake outside my window.

Browsing the Coronavirus Dashboard and wondering where the virus exists on my campus.

Wherever you are, allow your physical location to challenge you and probe FLEFF’s programming in new ways.

For this unique opportunity, the occasional interruption of a fire alarm seems a reasonable price to pay.