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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 Edward Willshire at 11:35PM
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Blog post written by Edward Willshire, Philosophy, '19, FLEFF Intern, South Orange, New Jersey.

Despite some rain and wind chill, April usually meant the first sunny days of the year when I was growing up.

Moving northwest to Ithaca, New York proved itself a different challenge than suburban New Jersey. The sun didn’t make its grand reentrance until April turned to May and I was already packing up to head home for the summer. By then the Ithaca Winter had already thrown me off my adapted routine.

I packed myself under multiple layers of clothes whenever I left my room and avoided doing so as much as possible. Wrapped in blankets and resting by the heater in my overstuffed dormitory, I had to contend with the challenges of seasonal depression and constant illness to my unacclimated body.

Being a student at Ithaca College (IC) changed my standards. The first few days when the sun comes out are like holidays. Students emerge from the catacombs of their campus housing with immeasurable pent-up energy. Joining in picnics or pick-up games of Ultimate Frisbee.

I realized we take our comparably mild Winters for granted back in New Jersey. Ithaca is a unique landscape in that regard. This was made the clearest to me at the beginning of April in 2016 when I was a first-year student at IC. I was privileged to be in the FLEFF Fellowship program, which at this time was a mini-course program for undergraduates.

My immersion into the festival started with immersion into this region itself. I trekked down the icy South Hill towards the Ithaca Commons. Every step was a risky gamble for my balance. 2016’s festival theme was Landscapes, which felt especially fitting while trying to attend screenings at Cinemapolis in this so-called Spring weather.

Even though I ended up in a well-heated theater in Cinemapolis, I couldn’t get comfortable. The conversations that occurred in each screening moved or shaped an idea in my head.

Film festivals are meant to inspire discomfort. They are hubs of art and dialogue which disrupt because art disturbs. It is in its nature for FLEFF to subvert expectations, which I experienced in viewing Wenhua Shi’s exploration of motion and light. An installation that’s quite different from the typical film screening one might expect.

Every theme that FLEFF has taken on reflects some aspect of itself, and this year FLEFF is once again drawing from inside for inspiration. Disruptions is just as fitting to FLEFF now as it would’ve been back in 2016. Just as how Landscapes would still fit today as the Finger Lakes region continues to battle unpredictable weather and record-low temperatures.

In the words of Dr. Tanya Saunders, the Executive Producer and Head Administrator of FLEFF and the Assistant Provost of International Programs and Extended Studies at IC, “FLEFF is a hopeful and joyful gathering even as its themes challenge, overwhelm, and sometimes disrupt us.” FLEFF is an opportunity for the IC community to engage with knowledge from all fronts.

When disciplines interact and people relate to problems outside of their field of vision, they are more likely to search for solutions.

“FLEFF demonstrates for students and faculty the creative, rejuvenating power of cross-disciplinary dialogue to overcome the artificial and real divisions among us and to move us toward collaboration,” explained Dr. Saunders.

FLEFF is a bridge for attendees and artists to connect with each other and with ideas. It’s cross-disciplinary nature necessitates creating new ways to think and act. These intellectual disruptions have always been at the core of FLEFF, and in highlighting them through the 2019 theme, the conversations will be as volatile as ever.

As a blogger I am of course looking forward to the many screenings and FLEFF labs. However, my most potent curiosity is in how the festival theme will bleed into conversations. This happened in 2016 with Landscapes, as conversations felt grounded and localized to a specific place. With a theme as true to the spirit of FLEFF as Disruptions, I cannot wait to watch the disturbances and dislocations be revealed. Then through dialogue and these blogs, help build the bridges that will reconnect us.

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