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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 Meagan McGinnes at 11:42PM   |  3 comments
matt poldolsky

 In Scavenger Hunt, director Matthew Podolsky explores the efforts of biologists in the remote northern Arizona to re-introduce the highly endangered California condor. Through these efforts a much larger problem is revealed: the toxicity of lead based bullets and ammunition. Ammunition incorporates lead because it allows for the bullet to fragment, better killing the animal rather than it simply being wounded and dying in the woods—thus losing the meat. No waste, what’s the big deal? Well lead is also toxic. When condors eat the animal remains, they also eat the lead fragments, which poisons them.

With the film’s world premier, Podolsky is pleased to be at FLEFF because of its uniqueness in comparison to other film festivals. Other film festivals focus on wildlife or animal behavior films with a more traditional approach, shying away from films that focus on conservation issues. However, it is these conservation issues, like that of the condors, that are most controversial and where education is needed the most.

“I think the focus on community involvement and the relationship between human communities and communities in nature is a really important focus that is pretty unique to the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival,” Poldolsky said. 

Poldolsky also believes this film truly epitomizes this year’s theme of microtopias.

“You can get bogged down by trying to deal with the bigger picture,” Podolsky said. “But if you try to focus on smaller communities then it is easier to come up with realistic solutions to that issue. And that fits perfectly with what we are trying to do with this film.”

 The film is all about the sparked conversation about this highly polarized national issue being addressed on a local level. I’m not going to give away too much about California condors’ commitment to action for the condors (you NEED to go see this film because this organization’s work is truly amazing), but here is just a little preview. Podolsky has been involved with the California condor program since 2005. A lot has happened since then. He said at this point every hunter who hunts up in that area knows about the issue; they know about the condors; they know about lead bullet fragementation. And close to 90 percent of hunters who hunt in that region use nonleaded ammunition voluntarily.

 “I think that (the percentages) shows that it’s possible,” Podolsky said. “I think it shows that hunters do have that conservation ethic and that when you explain the issue to them, 90 percent of them are willing to make a small change, pay a little bit more for ammunition and stop polluting wildlife.”

Podolsky himself is an Ithaca College alumnus, with a double major in Cinema/Photography and Environmental Studies. He grew up in Wellesley, MA. After graduation, Podolsky focused more on wildlife biology with a field job in upstate NY with retired IC professor Dr. John Confer—and it was Confer who got him the job with California Condors in Arizona. 

So check out Scavenger Hunt and meet Matt Podolsky after the film’s world premier! Where else can you partake in something this big for less than 10 dollars? As per usual, I am always amazed by the magic of FLEFF and the greatness of the types of people that come together in the name of film, art, environmental advocacy and good conversation.

Were you aware of this environmental issue with condors before now? What do you think about it?



I know next to nothing about issues surrounding Condors, but I am intrigued enough to want to learn more from this film (by an Ithaca Alum, no less)!

Judging by the depth of this conversation and the large quotes you have from Mr. Podolsky, it sounds like you had a great interview. Well done!

Thanks Sarah! Yeah, he had so much to say about this important topic! He is so passionate about condors. I cannot wait to learn more!

I really like how Podolsky related microtopias with this topic. Environmental concerns are all very complicated and this complexity can often leave people with a hopeless feeling, since the problem can seem too large to be solvable. It is important that we isolate individual environmental issues while still keeping them in the context of ecosystems. This is the best way to create change and make it easier for people to believe that they can have an effect in their environment. It is very hard to create this balance and achieving this is a formidable goal for any academic or filmmaker. I am really looking forward to seeing the way Podolsky approached the subject and to learning more about this issue. Thank you so much for this introduction to the topic Meagan!

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