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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 Emma Zarabet at 12:20AM

Dr. Chelsea Wessels answers her phone from a warm Tennessee patio, a stark contrast from the chilly Ithaca weather she used to teach in.


As much as she loves teaching film in Tennessee, Dr. Wessels is excited to return to Ithaca for her fourth year working with FLEFF. There’s no local art cinema where she is, so the opportunity to see current art films play at Cinemapolis is something to look forward to.


Dr. Wessels works with the FLEFF fellows as a way to help students get involved with the festival. She recognizes that it can be a challenge for students to break into festival life and describes how this class is designed to get students involved in the intellectual community that is FLEFF.


“I’m so excited for the community surrounding FLEFF. I’m a film scholar and I always see stuff that informs my research. There’s so much more than film, you can talk to people and see stuff in a stimulating environment that’s apart from normal life.”


What makes FLEFF so special, Dr. Wessels describes, is the chance to have conversations you normally would not be able to have. Students are given the chance to talk to people with various jobs in the industry and even Dr. Wessels herself has taken advantage of this opportunity. Just last year, she was able to speak to the creators of a film on ecofeminism which informed her latest research publication.


Dr. Wessels continues her praise of FLEFF by saying, “FLEFF is unique. I’ve been to a lot of festivals and FLEFF is so vibrant because it has all different entry points. You can interpret ‘environment’ so broadly and you watch all the different threads come together at the festival.”


She is no stranger to studying and viewing films from around the globe. As a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Dr. Wessels has spent plenty of time analyzing archival local cinema and seeing how it developed and its impact globally. Studying in Europe, is actually how she met Dr. Zimmermann, the codorector of FLEFF. Dr. Wessels attended one of her talks on film, before she wound up in Ithaca working at FLEFF herself.


As someone who is currently “disrupting” and changing the current design of the program she is teaching in Tennessee, Dr. Wessels is very excited for the theme of disruptions. She describes it as a powerful and timely theme that encompasses so many aspects of political and social movements, and of course, the environment.   


She even goes so far as to describe festivals themselves as disruptions. “Festival environments do disrupt conventional engagements with cinema. Festivals can really disrupt that viewing pattern because not only do you see the film, but get the director and a discussion with the audience that can disrupt your understanding of the film.”


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