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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Monday, February 11, 2019
Blog post written by Edward Willshire, Philosophy, '19, FLEFF Intern, South Orange, New Jersey.
“The festival experience is all about discovery for me,” Dr. Matthew Holtmeier told me over the phone. Unfortunately, I was unable to speak to him face-to-face, but I could hear the vague sounds of simmering pans and clinging cutlery as he cooked dinner throughout our interview. Continuing from a busy day of teaching at Eastern Tennessee State University as Assistant Professor and Co-Director of the film studies minor.
I took a class with Dr. Holtmeier my first year at Ithaca College (IC). He has a magnetic energy while he teaches, revealing how deeply passionate he is about screen studies. I could feel it just as much over the phone as I could in small group discussion classes. When I asked him about FLEFF, his love and loyalty to the festival and its programming was as clear and passionate as when he teaches.
"I Love FLEFF. It's a fantastic festival," Dr. Holtmeier exclaimed. His research and writings primarily deal with political and philosophical cinema. He published a book in January of this year titled Contemporary Political Cinema and serves on the editorial board for the journal Film-Philosophy. FLEFF and its goals align with much of what Dr. Holtmeier already studies, but he tries to leave that at the door each year when the festival begins.
“I don't want to over-code what I discover with what I already think and write about. I want to discover new things through the film and conversation."
This is Dr. Holtmeier’s favorite part of FLEFF. While some things stay the same to help give FLEFF its identity, like the opening concert or the screenings of silent films with live accompaniment, it is these unexpected disruptions that make FLEFF such a fantastic festival.
Dr. Holtmeier is a former IC professor of Media Arts and Screen Studies and currently a Festival Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for FLEFF. He earned his PhD in film studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Dr. Holtmeier began working with FLEFF five years and four festivals ago as a volunteer. He ran Q&A sessions with directors and taught some of the many FLEFF mini-courses. His courses centered around politics in relation to the festivals theme, including “Political Geographies,” “Political Landscapes,” and he would’ve followed that up this year with “Political Disruptions.”
“Even when I was there, I didn't know most of the students that were part of the FLEFF mini-course,” explained Dr. Holtmeier on the challenges of continuing his role now that he is no longer based in Ithaca.
Dr. Holtmeier provides students from all around the college with an entry-point into FLEFF. Using word-of-mouth he connects the festival to the wider campus that may not have known about FLEFF’s inter-disciplinary identity. IC faculty from all departments and schools have worked with or attended FLEFF and Dr. Holtmeier uses this network to reach students outside of the Roy H. Park School of Communications where he used to teach.
“This has been the good thing about FLEFF. We find all of the entry-points for thinking about whatever it is you study,” and on top of that, graduate students that are part of the FLEFF Fellowship Program bring all sorts of perspectives to the table.
This multi-disciplined discussion that comes with FLEFF is what kept Dr. Holtmeier involved even after taking a job at a University that’s over 600 miles away.
"When you see an important film that's one thing. But it's also those conversations that really make them important films to keep thinking about, keep working with.”
Dr. Holtmeier often draws from his FLEFF experiences for his research:
"Every year there's something," he explained, citing Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button and Reece Auguiste’s Twilight City as just two examples out of far too many to name. Dr. Holtmeier had an extended experience last year with Auguiste, who is one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective, after the screening of Twilight City.
“I got to go to lunch with him which was a great experience. He was just hanging out in the lobby with no one to talk to. Which is something that students should be aware of."
Dr. Holtmeier wanted to stress this point as students who attend FLEFF often have their friends with them, while the actual festival guests are there specifically to meet people. Festival attendees, and especially the students that Dr. Holtmeier is involved in reaching out to, should know that the filmmakers, producers, and visual artists that attend FLEFF are there to have a conversation.