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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Zachary Jabine at 11:25AM

Written by Zach Jabine, Cinema and Photography ‘20, Blogging Intern, Buffalo, New York


We all remember how tough middle school can be. Of course, tough is relative, given that most middle school problems tend to spring from pre-teen angst and melodrama, but middle school is no cakewalk. Making friends in a larger and more complex environment, dealing with the resident school jerks, the fast approaching onset of puberty: for your average 12 year old, entering middle school can be downright daunting. No one likes themselves yet, everyone’s awkward, high-schoolers always seem vaguely threatening, and pre-teens seem to have frightening aptitude in identifying a person’s insecurities and ripping into them for them.


Sounds fun, right?


Now, imagine having to move for middle school. To a different country. While having to learn the language on the fly.


That’s what Alisha Tamarchenko did. I got the chance to sit down with Alisha, my fellow FLEFF intern, over the weekend, talking to her and learning more about her fascinating background. Between the ages of 10-15, Alisha lived in the small rural village of Silvano D’Orba, in the Piedmont region of Italy, situated between Genoa and Milan. Her parents, both Russian immigrants to the U.S., moved her and her two younger brothers there after spending the majority of her childhood in Northern New Jersey and Upstate New York. Her father, a painter, had a career opportunity there (“We moved because he wanted to paint in Italy, really,” Alisha notes, a slight half-grin on her face) and they decided to go for it, uprooting and moving thousands of miles east. “I didn’t know any Italian when I went there, and when I went into 5th grade, I didn’t know what anyone was saying, so I had to learn - which is good, because it’s the best way to learn a language,” Alisha said. She still retains her ability to speak Italian; when she pronounces the name of her town, it sounds distinctly Italian, full and expressive.


I asked her if it was hard, having to acclimate to such a drastically different environment at a young age; while noting that there was some level of culture shock, Alisha said that “I really enjoyed my experience there. It was a good time. I definitely feel like a more global citizen.” She still keeps in touch with her middle school friends from Italy. Sometimes, however, it can be depressing. “They’re kind of stuck. In Italy, it’s very much all about connections… in the US, it’s as simple as going to school, learning how to do (your career), and then doing it, and it’s not like that in Italy.”


At 15, Alisha and her family moved back to the states, to New Paltz, New York, largely due to her upcoming college career. Despite taking film-related classes in high school, fondly recalling making “dumb, goofy short videos” for various projects, she originally intended on being an Anthropology major. Though she had a passion for filmmaking - in particular, documentary - she did not plan on pursuing that as a major. That changed when she toured the Park School: “I talked to a professor, and told them that my major was Anthropology, and they were like “have you looked into Documentary Studies?”, and I was like, oh my god, this is it, I’ve never even thought about this.” Alisha then decided to switch to a Doc Studies major; she would later add Anthropology back on after finding her feet in Doc Studies, taking on a double major. This interdisciplinary approach to her education reflects how Alisha herself embodies much of FLEFF’s core tenants - she is both an Anthropologist and a Documentary Filmmaker, Russian and American and Italian all at once.


Alisha’s first experience with FLEFF came in her sophomore year, taking History and Theory of Documentary with Dr. Zimmermann. “With that class, we had to go see FLEFF films, so I ended up going to a bunch of events - screenings downtown, on-campus discussions.” She got a taste of the festival atmosphere and immediately found herself at home; “I really went crazy. I loved it,” she notes. Now, she’s become a FLEFF intern to get the fuller experience, a more behind the scenes look at what a festival entails. “I really love the discussions; I love the theory behind cinema, I think it’s fascinating,” she said. As she talks about documentary, her eyes light up, and her body shifts forward in her chair - she has a clear passion for the subject. Ultimately, Alisha’s interdisciplinary and international background - both core parts of the FLEFF ethos - should provide for plenty of interesting discussion at FLEFF this year, and she is looking forward to diving headfirst into the film festival world.


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